National BSA Good Turns


The Boy Scouts of America's Good Turn traces back to American businessman William D. Boyce who was lost in a London fog. A boy offered to take Boyce to the address he wanted and refused a tip, saying he was a Boy Scout. Boyce's curiosity was aroused. He later had the boy take him to Scouting's British founder, Lord Baden-Powell. From this chance meeting, the Boy Scouts of America was born.

Among many references to the Good Turn in BSA literature is this comment from the Boy Scout Handbook: "To people who know about Scouting, the daily Good Turn is one of the finest features of our movement. The record of Good Turns, small and large, that have been done by Scouts since the day Scouting was founded is truly impressive."


The following list is compiled from the BSA's historical fact sheet and from Bob Peterson's book The Boy Scouts, An American Adventure. There is some inconsistency, and, on many of the earlier Good Turns, there is a certain degree of uncertainty as to whether the event was planned as a national program or just developed that way. In any case, here is a chronological listing.

  • 1912-The first Boy Scout Good Turn promoted a "Safe and Sane Fourth of July."
  • 1917-The day after war was declared on Germany, under the slogan "Every Scout to Feed a Soldier," BSA members were urged to plant vegetable gardens. In two plant-growing seasons, 12,000 Scout farms were established. At the same time, the BSA pledged to aid the American Red Cross and promised cooperation with the U.S. Navy by organizing Scout coastal patrols to watch for enemy ships.
  • The BSA's most significant service during WWI was the sale of Liberty Loan bonds to help finance the war effort. Five bond drives were held, and, in each case, Scouts were called upon to follow up the regular canvas by adult volunteer salesmen. They sold a total of 2,238,308 bonds worth either $147,876,902 or $355,000,000, depending on the information source. Scouts also sold war savings stamps to a value of either $3 million or $53 million, again depending on the source.
  • During WWI Boy Scouts collected peach pits and nut hulls which were burned to make charcoal for gas mask filters. More than 100 train carloads were gathered.
  • Another WWI Good Turn involved a national census of standing black walnut trees. Its wood was prized for gunstocks and airplane propellers. The BSA located 21 million board feet, or enough to fill 5,200 railroad cars.
  • Scouts served as dispatch bearers for government agencies and delivered 30 million (or 300 million, depending on source) pamphlets during WWI. Scouts also aided the American Red Cross and the United War Work Committee.
  • 1934-President Roosevelt called on Boy Scouts to collect household furnishings, clothing, and other items to help the needy during the Depression. More than 1.8 million articles were collected.
  • During WWII the BSA responded to 69 requests for help from the government. These requests included:
    • 1941-Scouts distributed 1.6 million defense bonds and stamp posters; began the collection of aluminum and waste paper; conducted defense housing surveys; planted victory gardens; distributed air-raid posters; cooperated with the American Red Cross; and, by agreement with the Office of Civil Defense Mobilization, formed an Emergency Service Corps composed of older Scouts who served in three capacities: messengers, emergency medical unit assistants, and fire watchers.
    • 1942-Scout projects included: delivery of millions of war-bond pledge cards-it was estimated they were indirectly responsible for sales of $1.8 million worth of bonds and stamps; collection of a vast amount of rubber, primarily old tires, estimated at either 5,898 tons or 30 million pounds; and continuation of scrap and paper drives. During the first drive, Scouts collected 5,000 tons of aluminum; other sources added another 17,400 tons of tin cans and 20,800 tons of scrap metals.
    • 1944-Boy Scouts were sent to collect milkweed floss as a substitute for the kapok used in life jackets-total collection was 750 tons.
    • 1944-An estimated 184,000 victory gardens were planted by Scouts.
    • 1944-An estimated 126,000 Boy Scouts helped farmers with their harvests.
    • The largest single war-effort project conducted by the BSA was the 1945 General Dwight D. Eisenhower Waste Paper Campaign. More than 700,000 Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts gathered 318,000 tons of paper; this brought the total paper collected during WWII to more than 590,000 tons.
    • Scouts collected 10 million used books for military personnel.
    • Scouts collected 7,000 tons of used clothing that was distributed to refugees in Europe and China.
  • 1950-51-Two million pounds of clothing for overseas relief was collected at the request of the American Council of Voluntary Agencies for Foreign Service and the United Nations.
  • 1952-More than 1 million boys went house-to-house and placed 30 million Liberty Bell doorknob hangers and a million posters (in businesses) to remind citizens to vote in the presidential election. Scouts also cooperated nationally in securing blood donor pledges, collected clothing for worthy causes, distributed seeds for Asia, and aided in conservation projects and civil defense.
  • 1954-A National Conservation Good Turn involved the distribution of 3.6 million copies of a conservation poster. In parks, rural areas, and wilderness areas, Scouts planted 6.2 million trees; built and placed 55,000 bird-nesting boxes; and arranged 41,000 conservation displays.
  • 1956-The second national get-out-the-vote campaign was launched with 36 million doorknob hangers and 1.4 million posters distributed.
  • 1958-National Safety Good Turns were conducted. The BSA delivered 40 million emergency handbooks prepared by the Office of Civil Defense Mobilization. Also, 50,000 posters were placed in post offices.
  • 1960-The third national get-out-the-vote campaign was conducted.
  • 1970-Project SOAR (Save Our American Resources) was initiated as an ongoing BSA project. It's estimated that during the year, 60,000 BSA units took part in SOAR-related conservation projects.
  • 1980-Scouts distributed fliers urging support of the national census.
  • 1986-An estimated 600,000 youth members distributed 14 million brochures to families informing them of the need for donated human organs and tissue and urging them to make a commitment to donate. Millions of other homes were reached through publicity and other promotional efforts.
  • 1988-The first Scouting for Food collection was completed. One million Scouts collected an estimated 65 million cans of nonperishable food.
  • 1989-1991-The continuing Scouting for Food collection resulted in a combined total of an additional 209 million cans of food for people in need.
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