Girl Scouts of Southern Alabama: July 2012 Archives

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Where did the summer go?   It feels like it just started.   We have been planning an excellent continuation of 2012, The YEAR OF THE GIRL, with a number of kick-off events in various areas throughout the fall.

I want to highlight one of these special events we are trying for the first time this year -- Tailgating for a Cause, on Friday evening, August 24, at the Opelika Events Center.   It is an adult event, which we don't do too many of, but this is one for that weekend of many events.   A little over a year ago we left the United Way in that area with the Boy Scouts because our funding was cut in half annually.   We went from $30,000 to $5,000 in a three-year period.   When you factor in the amount of time and paperwork maintaining the United Way relationship costs, there was no money left to actually fund the girls in Lee County, which is a strong supportive Scouting community.   Since we no longer receive United Way funding in that community, we thought we would try a joint fund raiser there, so we are teaming up with the Chattahoochee Boy Scouts to have an evening of fun and an auction.   The event is free, but will include a cash bar, which is why it is an adults only event.   Babysitting will be provided at the Girl Scout hut for a nominal fee.

We have some great items for the live and silent auction, including a motorcycle,  scooter, trailer, Yeti cooler, Big Green Egg, two Gulf Shores condominiums for a weekend, a week-long stay at a large house on Dauphin Island, a weekend hotel and entertainment package in Mobile with tickets to many sites  there, among many others.   We want to invite all those of you who want to come out and support Scouting.   We hope this will become an annual event in that area to replace funds that we aren't receiving from those who want to support us.  Plan on coming and bring some friends.  We are asking that you register ahead of the event by calling 1-800-239-6636. Bring your money, and tailgate for a cause!

The next day we have a morning of fun for the kids.   The Thin Mint Sprint, a set of races and runs for those expert runners at your household and for those who just enjoy exercising, will be held at Cary Woods Elementary School in Auburn.   This is a sanctioned run, so this event does require advance registration.   Girl Scouts may use the Event Registration form; non-Girl Scouts can register at  http://www.active.com/running/auburn-al-al/girl-scout-5k-and-1-mile-thin-mint-sprint-2012. .  If you have questions, call us at 800-239-6636.   

We will have all sorts of family fun at Cary Woods Elementary School.   Plan on coming to Opelika and Auburn for a fun-filled family weekend!

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We have been receiving a lot of questions around end-of-the-year issues lately.   I thought I would review some staff changes we have made and then give an overview on the most frequently asked question from the past two weeks.

As time passes on, more staff members wind up with more and different job tasks.   GSUSA has done a staffing survey for us and indicated we should have 42 full-time positions for our size council; we have 30 full-time staff.   That means some of us of multitask job functions.   As we work to get answers to volunteers and respond to service unit team needs, we are assigning Cheryl Miller with the task of answering all question for troop leaders across the entire council.   As you may be aware, Cheryl is the resident expert on Girl Scout Safety Activity Checkpoints.   She has been a long-time troop leader who is experienced in working with girls of all ages.   She is a part of the volunteer services team that works on training and information across the council.   Cheryl is a serious workaholic!   She can be reached at 800-239-6636, extension 2302.  Her office phone rolls over to her cell phone for maximum availability.  If you have questions, please contact Cheryl.

The most frequently-asked question the past few weeks is about troop cookie collections.   Like you, we have no magic formula to bring in delinquent payments! When your troop leader turns your cookie collections over to us, the first thing we do is make a few calls.   This doesn't last long; from there we send a registered letter notifying the individuals that we are in the process of collections.   The best scenario is they admit they owe us the funds and we work out a payment plan.  If there is a payment plan, we charge an additional fee (less than many lending institutions) to cover our costs and discourage late payment.

If there is no resolution by mid-summer, we intensify our pursuit.  After all, this is girls' hard-earned cookie money!  If we receive no response, we file in small claims court or with the county district attorney for the funds.   This is where the situation becomes much more sticky and much slower.   Once we turn this over to the district attorney's office, we no longer are allowed to work with the person and it goes by the legal system's timeline  We continue to work to pursue these folks.  We do receive judgments on behalf of the girls in your troop, but the payment is often slow and very frustrating.   We are happy to share where we are with various individuals with the troop leader involved.  

Each year at the close of the cookie sale, our collection rate starts at around $250,000!   We are able to work this down over the course of some months, but it is slow and tedious.   Please believe we take this very seriously.  This is someone stealing girls' cookie monies, and none of us take this lightly.   Please understand, once we begin working with a district attorney's office, we cannot push the process any faster.   They do work with us, but how quickly this is addressed varies significantly by county.   Hopefully this helps clarify the collections process.

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I was out shopping yesterday and surprised to see people filling the aisles with school supplies. Where did the summer go? It seems like it just started, but the beginning of school isn't far away and folks are starting to purchase all the items necessary for your kids to have a great year. Once summer camp is over, which it was last week, we turn our attention fully to planning for the next year. We already have some plans already in the works. Last week we asked for comments on the service unit bonus for increases is membership and the cookie program and appreciate the suggestions that we received.

This week we are looking at how to increase our girls' utilization of property.   We have some properties that you can barely get a reservation for, while others are available more than we would like.   As someone who loves the outdoors, I keep hoping today's kids will leave their technology to walk outside and see what nature has to offer.   But then, it is a beautiful day, and I'm indoors typing this. 

A discussion we have been having is whether our resident camp numbers are in decline because girls don't want to spend the night at camp.   One of the ideas we have been kicking around is whether there would be an interest in having camp sessions that are day camps, rather than resident camp?   We employ the summer camp staff, many of whom are college students and would like to work for the entire summer.   We have properties throughout the council that we could use for these day camp programs and have discussed using parks and other facilities in those parts of the council that aren't close to a property, so those girls could have a camp experience too.   I would be interested in your thoughts and feedback on this, since we do look at our summer program this early.

The second question is whether you believe it is wise to rent our camp properties to others to generate additional revenue.   This is always a question of balance.   If we move that direction, troop leaders will have to plan more in advance than what happens in some areas.   Girls would get the first shot at camp properties, but there would be times when someone external might have the property rented, so a troop that plans more spontaneously might not be able to reserve their property of choice at the last minute.   Also, the down side of external use of our properties is there is more wear and tear on them.   Generally, we would look to rent our properties to other groups with a mission similar to ours.

We always appreciate feedback as we look at various options to improve the girls' experience.   Please send us your feedback at communications@girlscoutssa.org Thank you, and enjoy the rest of your summer!


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Each year GSUSA assesses (grades) our council on a long set of performance standards.    So we all work hard to provide our girls the best possible Girl Scout experience.   Some of these standards are easier to meet than others.  One of them focuses on membership.  Another focuses on  maintaining a strong financial position.   

We have been growing membership, but slowly.   We would like to continue to grow membership and harness the strength and energy of the 3,500 volunteers who are committed to making the world a better place through Girl Scouts.   We are also working on continuing to increase funds to service units.   Previously, in some of the legacy councils, service units did receive some of the cookie funds.   

We are interested in your input on giving a service unit a $.10 (10 cents) per case bonus if the service unit increases girl membership from the 2011-2012 end of the year membership numbers.   This needs to be accomplished by December 15, 2012 for the service unit to be eligible.   The second incentive for service units is a $.10 (10 cents) per case bonus if the service unit increases the cookie program sales.   At the most recent CEO meeting I was listening to others talk about cookies, since we all rely on this as a critical source of our income.   Some councils are moving to $5 per box this next year.   We are not: we will remain at $3.50 per box.    

We are attaching the proposal for your comments.  Please send your comments directly to communications@girlscoutssa.org -- we want to be sure that we gather as much input as possible!

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I'm very fortunate to have a vocation that has me surrounded with girls, women and men of courage.   When I have the chance to go out and interact with those we serve, I'm always impressed and often awestruck with the courage I see exhibited.   Sometimes it is going off the platform to ride a zip line; other times it is not shrieking when you see a spider in your tent.   The other day it was a girl trying a stand-up paddle board for the first time.   All girls of courage, girls that moved out of their comfort zone to challenge themselves and try something new, and they are enriching their lives.

When I first arrived, I went around to the different properties.   Early on I was asked to go up to Camp Sid Edmonds where there were issues with the ranger's residence.   The trailer that ranger lived in was infested with ants.   As someone from the Midwest, the ants of the South were a revelation and just unbelievable.   I got to the trailer and met Christy, the ranger's daughter who was in her late teens and had a beautiful smile.   The ants had managed to get into her feeding tube.   I was horrified, but Christy smiled, unable to speak. She looked at me with her soulful eyes.   I assured Jesse Malone, the ranger, I would do everything in my power to rectify the situation with the ants and improve what little I could for Christy's sake.

Fortunately the council had been in quest of grants to build the ranger a new home at Camp Sid Edmonds, so we built one overlooking the beautiful lake and got it away from the ants.   Christy's situation was vastly improved by not being in the trailer.

Not long after they moved into the new house, Jesse and I had a conversation about putting a storm door on the front door of the house, as Christy spent most of her days on the couch looking out the door toward the lake.   As a Midwesterner, we have storm doors on all exterior doors.   We decided this would be a good improvement for her, since camp always has plenty of bugs.   We added the door so she was able to look out summer, fall, winter and spring.

Last summer, Christy underwent some very serious surgery.   She had grown enough that her back was pressing on her internal organs.   Not one to respond to pain unless she was really miserable, she came through the surgery well.

Last week, Christy became gravely ill.   Jesse called from the hospital telling us that the situation wasn't good.   When she did rally, she still had those soulful eyes and that radiant smile, but she passed on Thursday night.   When she was born, they told them she would not live past 12.   Christy was 24, having lived more than twice as long as they said she would.   I believe that is because she was a girl of courage.   You cannot underestimate the love of her mother and family in her living much longer than anticipated.   As they cope with her absence and loss, we can all learn from Christy.   She met each day with a smile.   You could see glee in her face when she was taken to the Scott House or put on the front porch to enjoy the outdoors.   We will plant a tree in honor of Christy, for a life well lived and for someone who met each day with joy and a smile.

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