It’s been a month since the GSNEO Board of Directors announced the very upsetting news to close 5 of the remaining 7 properties in Northeast Ohio. Members of the board insisted the decision was made to encourage members who would otherwise not camp in rustic settings, to give the outdoors a chance. Members who already enjoy these “primitive” camps felt unheard and unappreciated. I do find it ironic that, in a world where adults try to teach their girls to stay true to their values and existing friends, don’t change who they are just to become more popular, here is Girl Scouts, pushing away it’s current active members in hopes of attracting more members, changing themselves and throwing away their traditions and values.
Members have stated their frustrations. Delegates, volunteers, and girl members have written the Board of Directors, the CEO, and GSUSA and received very little response is given in return. Many members have started to give up, e-mailing pro-camp leaders, “I’m sorry to hear you lost”. We are slowly getting the word out, troop by troop, volunteer by volunteer, that our fight is not over. We have many educated and well thought out leaders with excellent questions that are still left unanswered. We know GSNEO and the Board of Directors are hearing our concerns.
I think the most upsetting fact is many of the members still believe it’s a financial issue. GSNEO has stated on their website, in the press release, and in many media outlets, that this decision has nothing to do with money. They currently have “firm financial footing” and made a small profit this year. GSNEO pulled $11 million in this year, $8 million from girl product sales (GSNEO Form 990: http://www.gsneo.org/media/209259/final%20signed%202010%20gsneo%20990.pdf). $1 million was spent on properties. Considering 50% of the girls participate, I believe they should spend 50% of their earnings, after salaries, on camp related costs. Salaries are estimated at $5 million and Dr Alford-Smith and two other top employees pull in $100,000+ salaries (Form 990). One camp (Camp Lejnar) has an endowment fund that covers all operating costs.
Council continues to change the numbers they chose to present to us. They change survey results, statistic are skewed, question headings re-worded. At one point we were told $1-2 million to fix up the properties, now $30 million. We are starting to question, is $30 million to fix current issues, or to bring up to the premiere camping standard? At the meeting the Board of Directors stated that 50% of the GSNEO membership used the properties. Recently, the Plain Dealer (local Cleveland newspaper) printed less than 30% of the GSNEO membership uses the properties. These should be hard numbers with little room for interpretation. It’s very frustrating and difficult to trust an organization that refused to present hard facts and raw data. We have already experienced issues before where they\ GSNEO Board of Directors said a very small percentage of girls camp. We later found that to mean girls who used GSNEO properties for GSNEO program. That number grew exponentially when we added troop camping and day usage. When you consider the number of troops that camp offsite due to the difficulty of finding a vacancy, the number grows even more. These numbers should be recorded and accurately presented. It is difficult for Daisies to camp, the percentage raises more when the denominator reflects the number of members who are allowed to participate.
For members of GSNEO: Know this is not a done deal. Know that you still have a voice. Know that your delegates and other volunteers are working tirelessly to prevent this from going any farther than it already has.
Please continue to write GSNEO about your disappointment with the Board of Directors, continue to contact the local media, express your concerns on social media websites and blogs, get the word out that Girl Scouts does not agree with the current leadership, contact your delegate and let them know how you would like to be represented, and finally, consider boycotting early bird registration!
Written by Corey Ann Ringle
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