2010-01-03 / Front & Center

Lapeer Scouts won’t boycott cookies

BY PHIL FOLEY STAFF WRITER

LAPEER — The threatened Girl Scout Cookie boycott has crumbled.

While local Girl Scouts activist Lynn Goss and members of Friends of Camp O’ Fair Winds still aren’t certain their 79-yearold camp is safe from the Girl Scouts’ budget ax, Goss recently decided to call off the boycott.

“We have decided that since they spoke to us and we ended on a positive note that we will not be calling for a cookie boycott,” said Goss.

Goss and others formed the Friends of Camp O’ Fair Winds after officials with the Girl Scouts of South East Michigan (GSSEM) abruptly closed the 465- acre Oregon Township campgrounds in May.

Girl Scouts of South East Michigan was formed in January with the merger of the Fair Winds Council, which served Lapeer and Genesee counties, and three others in Southeast Michigan as part of a statewide Girl Scout consolidation. The new organization now serves some 40,000 girls in Genesee, Lapeer, Macomb, Oakland, Sanilac and St. Clair counties, as well as parts of Livingston, Monroe & Wayne counties, with service centers in Flint, Port Huron, Clinton Township, Detroit and White Lake.

The problem, said Denise Dalrymple, who was brought in as CEO for the new organization following the merger, is the council has limited resources and more camp properties than girls to serve. Faced with falling membership and revenues, the Detroit Area Council closed its camp in Metamora in 2008

Things came to a head in November with Friends of Camp O’ Fair Winds claiming the new council had taken materials from the camp to Detroit and were planning on selling the facility.

Dalrymple and other Girl Scout officials said there are no Girl Scout Camps in Wayne or Oakland Counties, and added that following the merger the new council had paid off a $1.6 million debt for the former Fair Winds Council.

Still, the day after GSSEM officials met with Friends of Camp O’ Fair Winds members in Lapeer in early November to reassure them the camp was not for sale, Paul Levine — a Columbiaville parent who said he wanted GSSEM to turn control of, and financial responsibility for, the camp over to a local nonprofit group — sent out a mass e-mail claiming “they do not want to have the camp(s), and their only motivation is to receive money from a sale of the camp so that they can use it elsewhere.”

At a late November meeting of the property, program and market research committees for GSSEM’s Long Range Property Planning Project, the 60-plus committee members were told there’s virtually no market for large tracts of undeveloped land in the state.

While reassuring that Girls Scouts in this part of the state it is not going broke, Dalrymple told them the annual budget for the four merged councils had fallen to $10.7 million from $15 million.

Following the property planning meeting, Goss and four of her members met with Dalrymple and three other GSSEM officials. Goss said, “They still cannot say that the camp is definitely saved until the property planning work is done, but it was a positive meeting, and things did go in the right direction.”

That means local Girl Scouts began taking cookie orders Firday, and booth sales are slated to begin in February.

“We are trying to keep things going in a positive direction, but we are still working on doing what we can,” said Goss.

Still, with more campground property than girls to serve, Dalrymple is looking to a rocky few months. Following a meeting of the Long Range Property Planning Project committees this month, Dalrymple is expected to make a recommendation to the council’s board in February, followed by a series of town hall meeting with local Girl Scout leaders across the eight-county region in March.

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