Sidcup scout leader makes plea for help to save threatened group

Back row (left to right): volunteers Will Richards, Hannah Rees and Elizabeth Rees. Front row (left to right): Tommy Ridgwell, 8, Harvey Rees, 5, and Callum Oliver, 12.

Back row (left to right): volunteers Will Richards, Hannah Rees and Elizabeth Rees. Front row (left to right): Tommy Ridgwell, 8, Harvey Rees, 5, and Callum Oliver, 12.

First published in News News Shopper: Photograph of the Author by , reporter

THE leader of a Sidcup scout group on the brink of closing has made a plea for help from the community.

John Rees, 30, first joined a thriving 7th Sidcup Scout Group as a seven-year-old but has now been left with just three scouts and a cub.

When the father-of-two started as a cub in 1990 the group, based in Wellington Avenue, Blackfen, had around 40 scouts, 30 cubs and was just starting a beaver colony.

But numbers have dwindled and volunteers to help run the group are thin on the ground as John, mum Elizabeth, 65, and sister Hannah, 28, struggle to keep it going.

The railway terminal operative grew-up in Sidcup but now has to travel 12 miles each way from his home in Grays, Essex, for the group’s weekly Tuesday night meetings.

He told News Shopper: "I would be gutted if the whole thing folded on my watch.

"I could go to a group round the corner from where I live but I come back to Sidcup because it’s given me everything.

"I learned most of what I learned as a kid from scouting rather than school - if I could have gone to scouts five days a week I would have done."

John says the kind of practical skills scouting teaches can still be relevant to youngsters hooked on games consoles and social media.

He would love to start a beaver colony as children who join aged five tend to stay with scouting while teenagers already busy with sports and other interests are hard to attract.

John’s mum Elizabeth is the group’s secretary and has been involved ever since her son first joined.

The grandmother-of-three who lives in Burnt Oak Lane, Sidcup, said: "After all the hard work everybody’s put in it would be horrible to see it fold.

"It’s everything to our family - I’ve been involved for years my daughter Hannah also helps out.

"The kids get to do so many active things - from first aid to fire safety and camping - it would be a shame to see that go."

A spokesman for scouting in south east London said: “Scouting membership has risen consistently for the past six years and totals have now reached 6317.

“However, there are currently 709 local young people on waiting lists wanting to join, so there is an urgent need for more adult volunteers in order to meet the growing appetite for scouting.

“Local volunteer managers regularly review the number of scout groups and locations to try to ensure that supply matches demand.”

If you’re interested in joining or helping out at 7th Sidcup Scouts, call Elizabeth Rees on 02083028511 or get in touch via @7thSidcupscouts on Twitter.

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