Join us in reimagining the future here at Girl Scouts of the Northwestern Great Lakes.
"Evaluating our properties to ensure they match the Girl Scout experience we want to deliver has been an ongoing process for many years," says Dr. Corey King, Board Chair for GSNWGL.
Over the past three years, our council has conducted property studies, partnered with a property task group, and carefully analyzed survey data, membership data, demographic trends, access to partners, property usage, and other mission-critical criteria.
"The results of our research challenged us in many ways. Most importantly, to find ways to increase access and participation for all girls," notes GSNWGL CEO Patti Shafto-Carlson.
Property studies began with surveys of Girl Scout families and volunteers in the spring of 2020. Our council later partnered with an Ad Hoc Property Task Group in the summer of 2021. They conducted a second survey for families, volunteers, and staff in November-December 2021. The Property Task Group reviewed and analyzed survey data, membership data, demographic trends, access to partners, property usage, and other mission-critical criteria. The Property Task Group presented its findings and recommendations in a final report to the GSNWGL Board of Directors in the Spring of 2022. The GSNWGL Board of Directors continued the work of the property committee, and a final strategy was discussed and approved in August of 2022.
We have two active Girl Scout board members, ensuring that Girl Scout voices are shared. We also have a Girl Advisory Board with representatives from each council region who will play a large part in phase two of the long-term property plan as we discover the potential of our Girl Scout Centers and camp locations.
If we don't make tough decisions now, it will take away the experiences we can offer to Girl Scouts tomorrow. With limited resources, we're making choices that will serve us best well into the future. Having such an extensive portfolio of properties has meant deferred maintenance at many of them. We would prefer to invest our resources into fewer properties and focus our time and energy on bringing the benefits of our program to more girls. All the time, energy, and resources that go into preserving any one property takes away from the experience we can offer to Girl Scouts throughout our council.
We need this to be a collaborative effort that involves staff, Girl Scouts, volunteers, donors, community, etc. Reaching out to key council stakeholders is a top priority as we move into our discovery phase. Our staff and volunteers have so much experience and expertise to share in giving every Girl Scout the best experience. We want to hear from our Girl Scouts to understand what they want to gain from Girl Scouting and how we can best deliver that experience. Contact us anytime at email@example.com.
The long-term property plan, as shared, has been reviewed and approved by the board. Any deviation from this direction would require justification, review, and approval by the board of directors. Few circumstances would warrant a deviation from this plan, and if extenuating circumstances arise related to the sale or purchase of properties, the board will review and propose alternatives.
These decisions were not made because any properties were labeled as “good” or “bad.” Decisions were based on where we need to be in the years to come.
This decision is not directly tied to COVID, but through the pandemic, we learned that we needed to have alternative ways to reach Girl Scouts and meet them where they're at. We are actively working to rebuild our membership and reimagining a foundation that will support all Girl Scouts throughout our council.
We are proud to say that these decisions were not made because of any financial trouble at GSNWGL but because we are looking to the future and need to make choices now that will keep us financially and programmatically strong. GSNWGL has a track record of investing back into our properties and being good stewards of our finances. As we rebuild our membership from the effects of COVID, we need to be forward-thinking to ensure our organization is around to serve members for years to come. Having such an extensive portfolio of properties has resulted in deferred maintenance at many of them. We would prefer to invest our resources into fewer properties and focus our time and energy on bringing the benefits of our program to more girls.
GSNWGL has a track record of investing back into our properties and being good stewards of our finances. The board-approved property strategy will focus on helping GSNWGL build in a way that continues our legacy of stewardship for properties to better support and deliver the Girl Scout experience. Proceeds from property divestments may be directed toward developing remaining council camps and properties and will serve as a foundation for the Girl Scouts of the Northwestern Great Lakes to build and grow.
When making decisions on which camps to retain, we considered how they are used. Camp Birch Trails is our most centrally located camp, with the capacity to house the most overnight campers. Therefore, it has been named our premier resident camp. Although CBT can host some events, it's not conveniently located for one-day events. Sacajawea is easily accessible to most regions. When we offer council programming there, we frequently have attendees from all regions. In addition, Sacajawea is ideal for first-time troop camping, troop and family camping, and is right in town with easy and convenient access to many amenities, including food, supplies, medical and more.
Central is just that, central to our council. We often think of it as our hub. It is the most accessible area when considering our council as a whole. We look forward to using Adventures on the Go to fill in any gaps and ensure every Girl Scout has access to outdoor experiences and adventures--wherever they are!
We are currently researching bussing opportunities to allow us to bring more Girl Scouts to Camp Birch Trails. CBT is our premier resident camp and functions differently than our locations that offer day camp or troop/family camp opportunities. We want to find options to bring as many Girl Scouts looking for an outdoor experience to our premier camp and give the whole camp experience to our Girl Scouts.
Most of our membership does not live close to a camp property. Therefore, in most cases members need to first become comfortable with our organization and camp before making the commitment to travel to a camp property. One of the primary goals of AOTG is to bring our passion and love of the outdoors to girls in their communities. To make outdoor programing fun, safe and accessible to more girls.
AOTG will be available to all current members, emphasizing reaching Girl Scouts in underserved areas without easy access to camp/outdoor experiences. AOTG will work as a service to volunteers and service area groups—the council can bring outdoor experiences and programming to their community. (Badge-earning, supplies that may be cost-prohibitive). AOTG will be an opportunity to reach new Girl Scouts—for the curious girl who hasn’t yet embarked on her Girl Scout journey. The best part, every girl in every region will be able to take advantage of the opportunities presented by Adventures on the Go!
AOTG will travel throughout the 58 counties of Northwestern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, bringing the outdoor experience to girls where THEY are! AOTG can also operate as a recruitment tool – visiting community events, festivals, and member activities year-round.
Through AOTG, GSNWGL can reach girls throughout our council who may not have the outdoor experience at their fingertips. Exposure to play in nature will drive girls’ curiosity to attend camp and various outdoor programming opportunities. AOTG can help remove the cost barrier for girls/families to try kayaking, rock climbing, or experiences that may otherwise be cost-prohibitive.
Our goal is to continue programming uninterrupted for Girl Scouts throughout our council. We will work to always have a plan in place for current programming during any transition period.
With community partners across our geography and beyond - field trip and travel partners can help plan incredible outings, experiences, and more. These partners offer outdoor experiences, STEM, arts and culture, life skills, entrepreneurship, and community service! We hope to continue building these partnerships to ensure quality programming is available to all our members.
And as you heard earlier, Adventures on the Go will be a great option to fill in any gaps for outdoor programming.
Summer of 2022, we had several openings at both Camp Birch Trails and Camp Winnecomac. We know many of these openings were due to COVID. We also know our membership is low. We plan to rebuild bigger and better. As we do that, we plan to increase capacity at CBT to accommodate more campers.
The council will review projects on a case-by-case basis. We will attempt to relocate projects whenever possible. For projects that cannot be moved, the council will look for additional ways to recognize the project and the individuals who completed it.
A Girl Scout Center/Experience Center is a place for girls to feel comfortable, be themselves, take the lead, explore and experiment. The space includes a myriad of amenities to promote hands on learning. Our Girl Scout Centers will focus on one or more of our 4 program pillars, STEM, Outdoors, Life Skills or Entrepreneurship. These spaces will make programming, fun, easy and assessable. We're still in the discovery phase on what these experience centers may look like. We want to assure to include girl voice and data in this process. Girl Scout Centers will accommodate both staff (offices and equipment) and an environment that lends itself to a positive Girl Scout experience.
We need YOU to help build what Girl Scouts want in a Girl Scout Center!
There will be plenty of opportunities. Watch your email for invitations to listening sessions, town halls, and more. Please keep an eye on your email or visit our website for more information. And email us anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from YOU and all our members!
After further legal review of the deed, the direction to divest of Camp Winnecomac remains; however, the timeline will be adjusted. Girl Scouts of the Northwestern Great Lakes will continue to own this property at this time; however, will continue to work toward divestment in 5 years.