Black Hawk Lodge in the Mississippi Valley Council has started a local Order of the Arrow summer camp program called “Service Corps”. Service Corps focuses on giving Arrowmen the opportunity to attend Mississippi Valley Council’s Boy Scout summer camp but focus primarily on cheerful service and the opportunities available as an Arrowman. The structure of the program consists of each morning spent in cheerful service with projects ranging from constructing picnic tables for troops to use in their campsites, to helping with capital improvement projects like adding hand holds to the new bouldering wall, to good ol’ trail work.

Service Corps participants are given the afternoon to do essentially whatever they want. One major focus of this program was to provide an opportunity to youth in the council that have done the majority of activities and merit badges at summer camp but still want to attend and do something fun with their week of camp. With this in mind, the youth Arrowmen are allowed to spend their afternoon doing whatever they’d like. Doing anything from the camp’s ATV program, to swimming in the lake, shooting shotguns or rifles at the ranges, or taking a nap back at the campsite.

The Black Hawk Lodge funds the camp staff position of “OA Camp Chief” who is responsible for coordinating the ceremonial programs, teaches Indian lore merit badge, and all OA functions at summer camp. The Camp Chief has become a vital part of summer camp staff as he is also the staff member directly responsible for the execution of Service Corps. The Camp Chief works closely with the other camp staff members to set up special opportunities for the participants. Ideas include: a special night climb at the climbing tower after hours, doing a “glow zip” at the zip-line after hours, special times at the shooting ranges, Service Corps pizza party, etc.

Service Corps was set up to be the ideal summer camp experience for youth Arrowmen in the Mississippi Valley Council, and the surrounding areas. When this program was originally debuted in 2017, there was one week available of the council’s seven total summer camp weeks for the Service Corps. The goal in coming years is to expand to more than just one week so that more Arrowmen are given the opportunity to participate. With the debut of Service Corps, the youth LEC decided to also open up an opportunity to complete your Brotherhood at the end of the week and the response has been phenomenal. Allowing the Service Corps participants to complete their brotherhood at the end of their week was yet another reason for an Arrowman to attend. All other Arrowmen are also encouraged to complete their brotherhood at this opportunity if applicable.

Another reward for attending Service Corps that was introduced the first year was the embroidered flannel shirt. In such a short time the flannel shirt has become a very coveted and sought-after item in the lodge. Every participant receives one at the closing campfire of that week of summer camp. Service Corps has become a vital part of Black Hawk Lodge’s summer camp presence in the Mississippi Valley Council. The lodge puts on an evening program called “Pow-Wow” every Monday night for all of camp which showcases authentic native American dancing and drum as well as the vast opportunities available to Arrowmen and even a craft for everyone to make and take home with them. The Pow-Wow, the lodge’s callout ceremonies and service to camp are among the long list of things Black Hawk Lodge and Service Corps has come to be known for executing and executing well.