FYI: THIS IS THE LETTER I SENT TO GSNEO BOARD OF DIRECTORS AND GSNEO STAFF . . .
My name is Terrie Robbins and I am currently Co-Leader of Troop 60316 in the Louisville Service Unit of the South Region, as well as Fall Product Coordinator for our Service Unit and Cookie Mom for both of my girls’ troops over the last 11 years. I grew up as a Girl Scout with many awesome memories and was excited to be able to share my Scouting enthusiasm when my two daughters entered grade school. I am writing to you because I am very concerned and disheartened over the recent decision to sell five of the area’s seven camps. Selling 71% of our camps is unacceptable!
Through the years I was able to experience Camp Lycapodia and Great Trail Camp both as a Scout as well as a Mom and Leader. You’ve already closed and sold Camp Lycapodia. Now you are trying to sell our other local, historic Great Trail Camp where our girls planned and carried out badgework for themselves as well as younger girls. We had “Mom and Me” campouts where we showed our Moms what we had learned in Scouts. Our entire Louisville Service Unit had many camps there – a great way to introduce our new Daisy and Brownie Scouts to the joy of Scouting and camping. Our troop organized and ran a “Storybook” themed camp to earn the Silver Award. We were able to rent the entire camp if needed or just a lodge for a night to plan for the group campout. All of this was done at a secure camp and one within easy driving distance.
I understand there are other camping opportunities in Northeast Ohio; however, they will be quite far away from the South Region of GSNEO. With the distance to travel (especially with gas prices hovering around $4.00 per gallon) and the new “premiere leadership” centers, I can only guess that the price to attend these gatherings will also be increased. With all the opportunities girls have these days, camping is that core, fun, relaxing, nature loving place to experience the outdoors and stand out from other organizations. My feeling, and that of my troop, is that they want to go to camp and enjoy themselves in their natural surroundings; they do not want to travel an hour or longer to get to some “premiere” center/camp.
A considerable amount of money, I know, is required for upkeep and repairs. I believe that GSNEO has spent money wastefully that could have been used all along to keep the camps in good repair. Instead, you are constantly changing and “updating” the badge requirements with new books and “updated” awards. The pins and t-shirts designs and books can stand the test of time and don’t need to be changed every year or two. All those changes have got to be costly. It is a shame to see how much money was spent to build the Macedonia headquarters and for the high salaries of the CEO and other officials in that building who are dictating to the volunteers. I feel you have lost focus. The volunteers are here for the girls; the board should be here for us, leaders. Before the merger to GSNEO, Great Trail Council had one million dollars. You’ve now sold Camp Lycapodia, taken our store from the North Canton office, and now are taking our other camp – Great Trail. What is left for us in the South Region who are “working” for free?
On April 16, the board stated that only half the membership uses our camps. Even if that is true, that leaves approximately 22,000 girls who have to find a spot in just two camps. I urge you to reconsider and take back your decision to sell our camps. Please help to teach the girls that GSNEO really does serve them. Take the time to work with the volunteers to keep the camps open and operating so that even more girls can experience what Girl Scout camp can offer.
Girl Scout Co-Leader – Troop 60316
To Those of You Who Plan to Close OUR Camps,
I have been sitting in the shadows watching and listening to all of this unfold. I have chosen to keep a clear, open mind about recent announcements. Today it has become very clear to me the decisions that have been made are unsettling to most, if not all, non-board members involved. As a Girl Scout Alumni and an active Girl Scout mom, I am impressed and very proud to see our Girl Scouts and our tradition proving true. This is evident by the number of girls and women pulling together as a unit to be heard, standing strong, and pursuing what they feel is a key part of developing strong, functional women.
Our future is dependant on past experiences. Learning to work together as a unit at camp develops social skills for our future personal and professional lives. Building fires, camping outside, first aide training, and exploring our environment develops skills of survival which we hope to not use, but reality is...we may.
Speaking from the perspective of a leader, in a professional sense. I ask that you take a moment to reflect on your past and what it was that prepared you for your current leadership role. When you were a child, was it a structured "leadership center" or was it exploring the outdoors playing with friends using roleplay to develop relationships that aided in preparing you? I question the ability to understand how important these camps are when you have not had the opportunity to experience Girl Scout camp for yourself for whatever the limitations.
While new ideas are exciting, the saying goes...."If it's not broken, don't fix it". Our current ability to teach LEADERSHIP to these girls is not broken. Our camps, or tools we use, simply need updating. Had our leadership addressed these needs when they arose, perhaps they could have prevented the current situation. If the intention is to build new, then one can reason, money is not the issue.
Closing down the camps because of the cost of fixing them sounds more like.... "If it doesn't work...get rid of it". When what we should be hearing is "How can we, as leaders, assist these girls in making this work?". This action would also limit access to leadership teaching tools and opportunities.
Making decisions is not an easy task. What I can say from experience is that I have had to re-evaluate decisions that I have made and find that changing them was the best thing I could have done.
Please keep in mind the girls have been taught from day one that selling cookies and fundraising is done to provide opportunity and growth for the future of themselves as well as other Girl Scouts. Closing these opportunities, or limiting access to these necessary tools, for the purposes of fulfilling your OWN goals sends a contradictory message.
One last point for you to ponder. Researching the definition of Girl Scouts finds one common definition: CHARACTER BUILDING. In reflecting on your past, how many times did that occur in a 4 walled building?