Starting in 2019, Bidwell Street United Presbyterian Church in Manchester may no longer have a Boy Scout troop. Alan Perry, who served as the Scoutmaster there for 27 years, is resigning and looking for a replacement.
By Ashlee Green
Phones are ringing frequently here at Alan Perry’s house in Manchester. The start of the open enrollment period for Medicare is just a few days away and customers of Perry, the owner and founder of Perry Insurance Group, have questions. But today, Perry, who is resigning as Scoutmaster of Boys Scouts of America Troop 281 and Cub Scouts Troop 281 of Bidwell Street United Presbyterian Church, is talking about another concern: finding a new Scoutmaster to replace him.
Starting in 2019, Bidwell Church may no longer have a Boy Scout troop. While Perry is resigning as Scoutmaster, he plans to remain a commissioner, or a consultant for adult troop leaders, and a merit badge counselor, or a mentor for Scouts learning specialized crafts and hobbies like archery and salesmanship. Bidwell Church’s club charter is up at the end of December and if no replacement for Perry is found by then, it would be, according to Perry, a crisis.
Perry has won several awards for his accomplishments with Boy Scouts, including the District Award of Merit and two national awards, the Whitney M. Young Jr. Service Award and the Silver Beaver Award.
“You don’t do it for the awards,” said Perry. “You do it because of the need for making young men better men. That’s why I do it.”
Perry grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, and was working as a paperboy when a Scoutmaster, who happened to be one of his customers, encouraged him to join the Boy Scouts. After a short stint as a Cub Scout, he didn’t get involved again until after he married, had children, and realized the structure for young men that Boy Scouts provided. Structure, he said, was something his own son needed at the time.
According to Perry, it wasn’t long until he formed three different Cub Scout dens in East Cleveland. Each church had a Cub Scout den and they met with him once a month as a pack.
After moving to Pittsburgh, Perry became involved with the Bidwell Church Troop 281, and has served as a Cubmaster and Scoutmaster there for over 27 years. He also created a program for Scouts with disabilities, which now exists throughout the Greater Laurel Highlands Council. He finds his work rewarding, he said, because of the successes of his former Scouts. Many of them earned the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest rank a Boy Scout can achieve, and one is his own son.
Quentin “Cue” Perry, is a painter who teaches preschool at the Campus School of Carlow University. Alan remembers a time during Quentin’s first year at the University of Pittsburgh, when Quentin called him and said, “Dad, I just saved somebody’s life.” A student had cut his wrists in the bathroom and Quentin, trained in first aid through the Boy Scouts, knew what to do.
“Scouting is so important,” said Perry. “Those are life skills he’ll never forget.”
Another one of Perry’s mentees, Kevin Carter, is the founder and CEO of The Adonai Center for Black Males, Inc., which works to ensure the social, educational and economic advancement of black males. Carter also serves as representative of District 8 for the Pittsburgh Board of Public Education, a position Perry said he ran for and lost when
Carter was a kid. Perry calls Carter his “legacy” and remembers driving him back and forth from Farmington, Pennsylvania, to work at Boy Scout summer camps hosted at Heritage Reservation, a job that helped Carter pay for his college education.
“No one knows the problems that African-American men
face, especially in this city,” said Perry. “[Carter] is doing a fantastic job.”
Perry’s work is never done. The past moderator of the
Pittsburgh Chapter of the National Black Presbyterian Caucus, he continues to run Perry Insurance Group and serves as Secretary for the Northside Community Development Fund. He sits on the property and finance board and serves as Chair of the Freedom Rising Committee, formed to address and improve the plight of African-American males in Pittsburgh, at the Pittsburgh Presbytery. He’s also an ordained elder at Bidwell Church and has been a Prince Hall Freemason for close to 50 years.
Perry claims to have played just a small part in the lives of the Boy Scouts he mentored and said he could not have done it all without the help of his registered Scout leaders, his wife Anita, Janice Park, the Colelli family and
Rebecca Coger. He is willing to offer a helping hand to community leaders interested in taking over his role as the Bidwell Church Scoutmaster.
“When you’re in this world, you want to make it a better place.”
For more information about becoming the new Bidwell
Church Scoutmaster, contact the Laurel Highlands Council at
412-471-2927 or Perry himself at 412-322-1835.