One of the things that makes the annual meeting a challenge (besides the spring break schedules) is that the meeting reviews the previous year while we are at the half way point of the current year. This happens because our annual audit is not complete until then, so we make time to review the financial results. We will be posting the annual report and the council financial results from our audit on the website this week.
Last year was not a good one financially, a direct result of the lack of funding from the United Way of Southwest Alabama. Because of this our organization experienced an $83,000 funding reduction with virtually no warning. It wasn't a fair and measured funding cut and affected Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts. Both organizations are still reeling, working to continue to provide the quality of service we had with such a dramatic budget reduction.
United Way givers tend to give on a monthly basis through payroll deduction. We have been unable to locate those individuals in the Mobile, Clarke, and Washington counties to give to us directly to continue to provide quality service to those locations. We do want to acknowledge we continue to receive support from Wiregrass United Way, River Region United Way, Baldwin County United Way, Lake Martin United Way, Troy United Way, Selma-Dallas County United Way and a host of United Funds. We appreciate their vision and investment in the future of their communities through shaping young leaders.
Fewer staff has a direct result in recruitment of fewer adult leaders and therefore serving fewer girls. The girl numbers last year were frightful, and it is heart breaking that girls who would like to be Girl Scouts cannot do so because of funding. Fewer girls resulted in a much smaller cookie program, which is the primary source of our revenue, at 75 percent. Thus, as we worked to reduce expenses through staff lay-offs, our revenue spiraled in a negative direction.
We continued to offer more than 50 council-hosted programs during the year, working hard to serve the girls who were committed to Girl Scouts. Those programs included some great STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) programs. We also partnered with the local universities to have events on their campuses, often using current students to assist in providing some great fun activities for girls. Summer resident camp was a great one. We had many girls who were willing to experience the great outdoors and move out of their comfort zones by trying things they haven't before. That ran the gamut from mounting a horse, to putting their face underwater in a murky lake to riding the zip line.
We had five girls earn their Gold Awards last year with some outstanding projects. This is a significant accomplishment for these girls. It includes not only their project, which has to be significant and sustainable, but they have to complete hours of other Journeys and requirements as a part of that significant milestone. The girls who earned their gold award last year are Morgan Alford, Amerie Gramelspacher, Katie Kirk, Bailey Sawyer and Rebecca Pober Citrin. More information about each girl and her project can be found in the annual report. We are very proud of these girls as well as the 27 that earned their Silver Award, and the 112 that earned their Bronze Award. These girls are changing their world now.
Another of last year's challenges was the number of significant water leaks at Camp Scoutshire Woods and Kamp Kiwanis. With a harsh winter the water lines, buried not far below ground level broke with a spill at Oka Misha at Camp Scoutshire Woods dumping 1,000,000 gallons of water into the lake. The rangers worked most of the winter months addressing the water leaks at both camp properties. As we replaced water lines we also put in additional valves so we can isolate one unit from another to turn the water off.
Since we were precariously close to ending the year spending more money than we brought in, we had our forester evaluate the pine plantation at Camp Sid Edmonds. That pine forest was mature and needed attention, so we clear cut 69 acres of the pine plantation there to address the revenue shortfall. It was a good time to cut timber and the funds produced from the pine plantation closed the revenue gap from fewer girls and a tough cookie program. The pine forest will be replanted in January 2016.
The best part of the annual meeting is always awarding the Volunteer of the Year to one of our wonderful volunteers. This year's recipient was Barbara Mitchell. Barbara has delivered Girl Scout programs and served as a role model to girls in the Dothan Public Housing community for more than twenty years. Please read this blog entry about her many accomplishments..
For the entire annual report and financial report, please click here.