40 Service Hour Ideas for Trailmen or Trail Life USA Troops

Community service projects and service hours can be a bit daunting as you begin to add them to your program for the young men.  However, like any great endeavor, the difficulties are far outweighed by the benefits!

Volunteering in general has positive effects ranging from building self-esteem, strengthening your community, and reducing stress to developing emotional intelligence and empathy.  From learning professional skills and civic responsibility to learning to work with a team.

Specific projects will also have additional benefits.  Having the young men take cards and treats to first responders can help Trailmen to understand that these are real people who sacrifice much for our communities.  Taking gifts to a nursing home can serve as a reminder that we aren’t immortal and that our elderly deserve much more than we sometimes give them.  Taking gifts to the homeless can serve as a reminder that having a warm home and food are big blessings.  You get the idea, right?

If none of that is reason enough, let’s consider possibly the best reason of all: community service is a great way to share the love of Christ in your community, and it can unlock doors for the gospel that were previously sealed tight.

Finally, I’d add that for a Trailman who is the Point of Contact (POC) and/or coordinating a service project can add multiple additional benefits!  These include developing leadership skills, building the courage to ask for things you need - such as fundraising for a project, gathering materials for a build, or running a food drive or supply drive, developing organizational skills, and many more.

Some of that sounds a lot like being a good steward of Creation, treating others as we want to be treated, character development, and guiding young men to lead with integrity and serve others.  Now if any of that seems familiar, it’s because I took it straight out of the Trailman Oath and the Trail Life USA Mission!

Isn’t it amazing to be part of an organization whose guiding principles and values give us plenty of reasons to do what is right before you even consider that through community service, Trailmen can also earn Service Stars and check a box on their Rank and Award requirements?!

With all that said, here are 40 ideas that you and your Trailmen can use to knock out those service hour requirements!  These are not ideas for Servant Leadership projects for the Freedom Award.  Those need to be much larger projects, and I hope to compile and share a list of ideas for those in the near future as well.

1. Pack Operation Christmas Child (OCC) boxes.   


2.  Volunteer on a Habitat for Humanity project.  

3. Serve meals through Meals on Wheels.

4. Collect toys for Toys for Tots.   

5. Participate in a city cleanup/trash bash event.  

The few faces not blurred are my kids and me. Multi-Troop turnout for Trinity Trash Bash in Fort Worth, Texas. September 15, 2018.

The few faces not blurred are my kids and me. Multi-Troop turnout for Trinity Trash Bash in Fort Worth, Texas. September 15, 2018.


Two of my daughters at Trinity Trash Bash in Fort Worth, Texas.  September 15, 2018.   

6.  Clean up litter during a campout. 


7. Prepare and deliver hot chocolate to homeless people in your community on a cold day.  

8. Prepare meals for homeless people in your community.

9. Make cards for Veterans on Veteran’s Day.  

10. Make cards and deliver them to a nursing home at Christmas, then sing songs with residents while you’re there.  


11. Organize a food drive for a local food pantry. 

12. Help lead a day camp. 

13.  Older Trailmen can help lead at VBS for younger kids. 

14. Place flags on graves on Memorial Day, or Veteran’s Day.  

15. Serve at a church Trunk-or-Treat. 

16. Volunteer at an animal shelter.

17. Adopt a Highway (or median or street or park, or whatever option is available in your community.)  Clean it frequently.   

18. Clean up a park. 

19. Send Christmas cards to a Troop stationer overseas.   

20.  Collect toiletries and cosmetics for a women’s shelter.  

21. Collect toiletries, socks and snacks, then make and deliver bags to homeless people in your community.  

22. Plant and grow extra fruits and vegetables in your garden, then deliver them to a food pantry when you harvest.   

23. Rake leaves or clean up a yard for elderly people in your neighborhood.   


24. Host a dog wash to raise money for a local animal shelter.

25.  Host a book drive to collect new and gently used books for a local homeless shelter or women’s shelter.

26. Help clean up after a community event, such as a firework show on the 4th of July.

27. Write thank you letters to Troop leaders (Trail Guides, Woodlands Ranger, Navigator Trailmaster, Adventurer Advisor, Troopmaster, Chaplain, Committee Members, etc.) thanking them for their time and mail or present them.

28. Check with your Charter Organization and/or Host Church (if they are different), to see if they need anything (plant trees, clean flower beds, change light bulbs, etc.)

29. Help fill plastic eggs for a church Easter Egg hunt.

30. Contact a local State Park or camp that your Troop has used to see if they need any help.  (Clean brush from hiking trails, clean trash, etc.)

31. Collect or make treats and cards to deliver to a police or fire station.  When we do this, my son (16) and oldest daughter (13) bake cookies, our middle daughter (7) decorates goodie bags (see below), all three make cards, then all three out cookies and a card in each goodie bag, which we then deliver.  Last fall, we toured five different fire stations and two police stations when we dropped in with treats.  It made a big impact on my kids.  


32. Have a bottled water and Gatorade drive, then donate what you collect to local police and fire stations.   

What service hour ideas should I add to this list?  What other ways have your young men earned service hours?  Do you feel like any of these ideas should be removed from the list?  What else should I write about on my blog?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Also, if you are finding this blog useful, please consider checking out the different Trail Life USA coins that we offer in our store.  Fund from these coins allow me to keep this site online!  

Why Do We Camp in Trail Life USA Troop TX-0098?

After our Troop campout this past weekend, I woke up this morning with a few things on my heart.  I shared the following with our Troop, and thought maybe a few nuggets of usefulness would be present for other leaders.  Maybe not.  I’m not a writer and this is mostly raw, unedited, unrefined stream-of-consciousness, but here goes:

Just a “short” reminder that camping has a higher purpose and is just a vessel, through which we *hopefully* accomplish so much more.

I genuinely believe that this weekend was one of the best campouts that we’ve had in quite some time.

It certainly wasn’t because we had beautiful, clear skies the entire time or because things were comfortable and easy.

It also wasn’t because everyone knew exactly what to do, how to do it, or because we were 100% prepared for every possible situation or difficulty.

In fact, the running lights on our trailer went out on the way there, I was pulled over by a Sheriff due to said lights (that’s the first time I know of for that to happen on a Troop campout in the past ten years), we had our first broken bones that I know of in the 20 year history of our Troop, it rained for a significant portion of the trip, it hailed, we had water inside of our Troop tents for the first time ever, we had first timers who had no clue what they were doing, we had teenage boys walking through a difficult time of life and adult men with different opinions of how things should be done, and we had Trailmen who were disappointed that they didn’t earn badges they had hoped for.  For each of those things, let me extend an apology for things outside of the control of men. 

But let us also consider that maybe character isn’t built by sleeping in a temperature-controlled hotel room with room service.  Maybe our young men won’t learn to lead others *only* by reading a handbook.  Maybe they aren’t going to figure out how to respect an axe, hatchet or pocket knife by watching YouTube videos.  Maybe, if we avoid all possibilities of injury or disagreement or bad weather, we won’t ever have the opportunity to give these young men the various skills that they’ll desperately need someday.

There’s nothing wrong with a hotel room, or YouTube, or reading a handbook. Each can be useful, but by getting out in the Lord’s Creation, experiencing the unexpected, and rising to new challenges, these men of tomorrow are building skills that many won’t have.

To the seven dads who joined me in building into the young men this weekend: THANK YOU!!  Believe me, I know it isn’t easy to show up every week for meetings and/or every month for campouts, year after year for a decade, but our sons need you.  They need every dad that they can get - speaking life, encouragement, courage, skills, Biblical teaching, values and character into them and sharing adventure with them as frequently as possible. 

They need all of us men, building a better village for tomorrow, so that they can go out into the world in a few short years with the best tool kit they could possibly wield.  What tool can you add to their belt?

If any of you have had the unfortunate luck of experiencing a campout where I am the primary lead adult, you are painfully aware that these boys will need the skills of other dads.  How can you help?

I can’t even begin to thank each of you enough for your efforts to help me raise Kyle to be the kind of Godly man that I pray he will become.  Trail Life USA, Troop 98, and you men have built so much into him, and I am blessed to watch it happen and see the effects on who he is.  

Each trip, each adventure, each Wisdom from the Wild, each Chapel service, each time he messes up and receives correction, each time he falls and is lifted by others, each time he gets to laugh and experience something new, his world is opened up in great new ways.  I pray that the same is true for each of your sons.

Each of you dads brings something different - gifts, skills, knowledge, abilities, passions, and so much more - to the table.  During the course of a weekend, each of you will feel a nudge from the Lord to bring a word or to teach a skill or speak encouragement or tell a joke or to cook something or to remind a young man to be careful or even to take calculated risks - that will never come from me.

These are the things that a community does for one another. 

That’s what Troop 98 does for each other.

We are all in this for different reasons, and I get that.  We want our sons to have more friends.  Our sons want to camp or canoe or hike or learn to tie knots.  We want them to have one more avenue where they hear about Jesus in a different environment.  We want them to, or they want to, earn a specific rank or award or even ALL the awards.  We want them to be better people than we are or to experience things we wanted to do as kids, but couldn’t.  Some of us want all of that and more!

Whatever the reason you and your son are involved, whatever God used to bring you here, let’s all commit together to view this as a ministry.  Look at it through Kingdom-colored glasses.  Consider what you have to bring to the table and do it the best you can.  Ask the Lord to show you where you can help, and jump in.  Talk to your son about what he’d like to see you do in the Troop.  Talk to an adult leader about where we need you.  Look for ways to be a blessing to the boys and the other dads around you.  Look for ways to build  the Kingdom of God, by building into 50 young men!  This applies to Tuesday nights and monthly campouts the same.

Lastly, let me assure you that if you do, I can promise you that eventually, several things will happen:

1. You’ll be even more exhausted than you already are,

2. The exhaustion will be 100% worthwhile if you ask yourself about the most important things in your life,

3. You will see your son and the men around you through different eyes,

4. You’ll wonder why you didn’t get involved sooner,

5. You’ll come to a point where the end of your son’s time in the Troop and his 18th birthday are both rapidly approaching, and you’ll be saddened that you have only a little time left to make the difference you’ve always wanted to make in his life,

6. You’ll cultivate some of the best friendships that you never realized were possible, and

7. Your only regrets, a few years down the road, will be that you didn’t do a better job, more for your son, or more for the Troop.   

Thank you for taking the time to read this, but thank you even more for committing right now to pray about what you can do for our young men, and thus for the world of tomorrow.

Kyle Earned His Horizon Award!

I just wanted to share a quick post to say that my son, Kyle, earned his Horizon Award this week!!  

He has been working so hard to get here, and is so excited to have finally accomplished this difficult achievement. 

I am a proud dad this week.   

The following picture was taken right after we were told that he passed his Board of Review: 


We sat down last night to do some Freedom Award planning and to look over his timeline.  He put together his own Plan of Action with times and activities for the coming week.  Part of that plan is to spend a significant amount of time reviewing the Freedom Procedure Guide and being certain that he has all of the various pieces straight in his head, and then beginning to implement those pieces that he hasn’t focused on yet.   

I believe he is off to a good start.  I’m praying for his journey!