Recently in Camp Category

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I spend a lot of time, as does COO Karlyn Edmonds, working with the rangers to make sure the camp properties are the best we can provide with our finite financial resources.

I was talking to one of them awhile back who said someone told him being a ranger must be the best job in the world, to have the views and the opportunities.   His response was that yes, he likes his job, but he doesn't get to enjoy it in the same way those of you who go up to camp do.   He looks around and sees nothing but work.   There's always more to do.   There's grass to be cut and trimmed.   There are building issues where the list is simply endless, even though he is working on it all the time.

One night when I was up at camp, I couldn't sleep and was thinking through how many buildings GSSA uses.   GSSA has 36 buildings and 36 bathhouses, for a total of 72 buildings.  This many buildings require a lot of maintenance.  Just think of the number of roofs when it comes to that.   We also have more than 700 acres to maintain.   This 700 acres has six lakes, five of which we care for.   

I want to introduce you to the new Camp Scoutshire ranger and his wife, Chuck and Leigh Norris.   They come to us from the Isaac Creek Campground where they have worked for more than five years.   They are in the process of moving into the house at Camp Scoutshire Woods. Leigh enjoys mowing, so I have seen her on the mower every time I have been up to camp.

I wanted to give kudos to Jesse Malone, the Camp Sid Edmonds ranger.   Jesse spent the entire summer at Camp Scoutshire Woods.   We have been struggling with a water leak from the winter months that would just not stop.   After hours of work and blown gaskets galore, we finally found out the water pressure at Camp Scoutshire Woods was double what it should have been.   No wonder we could not get the water to stop flowing.  

Jesse has spent the summer and now into the fall working diligently at Scoutshire almost daily with the ranger.   He has replaced toilet innards, showerheads, cleaned up the kitchen, and used a bulldozer to grade where we have chronic erosion issues.   They have really worked on the craft hut, grading the front entry, replacing all the screens and getting the sink to work.  Frankly, I have never seen Scoutshire look so good.   If you are up there in the near term and see Jesse, thank him because you can't pay people to care the way he has for the properties so girls can have a great time on them.

We also were up at Camp Humming Hills recently.   The pine forest is coming along nicely.   I was pleased that most of the trees planted are now over the top of my head.   They look very healthy and sturdy, which is always good given how much wind whips through that area on a regular basis.   I'm always awestruck at why someone would build a swim dock in the manner they did at Humming Hills.   I had always figured it was dilapidated instead of being built in a way that looks like something out of a Halloween distortion experience.

Finally, at Kamp Kiwanis we are about to build a small observatory up there.   We have a benefactor with some restricted funds who wanted the funds used to honor a deceased Girl Scout.   We will be working on that project through the winter.

If you are up at camp, do take the time to meet the ranger and thank him for all he does.   I recognize not everything works all the time, however, it isn't because these staff members aren't doing their job.   And yes, they have great jobs, but never underestimate how much work maintaining those properties can be.

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My view is of girls learning skills with boats and paddleboards, learning to swim, singing new songs, hiking trails, making all sorts of crafts, and managing bugs and spiders in their living quarters.  

Last week, they had a Native American storyteller and were spellbound by the wonderful stories.   Another day, they heard a paleontologist speak.  Then there was a herpetologist from Auburn University, who brought her frogs and toads.   They knew a lot about frogs and toads already, but she let them see their spade feet, or the bumps on their back.   They learn so much while having fun.

One of the facets of Girl Scouts I appreciate most is that girls can learn by doing.   They can collect bugs and create their own living environment.   The things they see and experience can be applied when they return to school in the fall.   In the meantime, they have been outside listening to birds, seeing the fish, and experiencing a lake.   I've not heard one mention that she misses the television, a cell phone, or the Internet.   Music at camp is made from nature or the girls that inhabit it.   They do mention they miss their family, but only occasionally.

We are on a learning curve with the day campers.   My notion of victory here is that those girls will want to attend resident camp next year.   So far, we have had a number of them say they do.   At the end of the day as our drivers talk to them, they discuss the fun they had.   This was the first year for the day camp, and we had some early hiccups, but I believe we have determined it is worth offering again.   We have had a number of girls who had so much fun their first week that they returned for a second.   This is another victory.

Every day I take a photo of my new office and send it to my friends, calling it "my office today."   Every one of them expresses jealousy because they can see from the photos the fun the girls are having.   Please check out the fun at our Flickr.com account on line, share in the joy the girls are having in the outdoors.

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One of the great things about what I do is getting to know some of the girls we have the privilege of serving.   Spending the summer at camp has provided me with a good opportunity to meet some of the great staff we have.   I spent 30 years working with college students at a university, so I was delighted to spend some time with the summer camp staff during their training.   Since then, I've been watching them interact with the campers, which is a beautiful thing.

Many of these girls have gone to camp in our council and are the product of your hard work and efforts.    They are leaders.   I see them teach, counsel, correct, nurture and work with their charges.   The girls, in return, follow them around, look up to them, and find role models to emulate.   It's something I wish you could all witness, because it proves the power of what a girl can do.   And the time you invested in these girls proves it was time well spent.

These girls laugh, sing, hike, swim, paddle, and eat with our camper girls.   And I can assure you they sweat with these girls.   Last week, I was sitting down from the rec hall at Scoutshire, trying to get some work done and someone I was with noticed there was a black snake at the steps of the building.   We checked it out, and decided it was a rat snake or maybe a black racer.   There was a group of Brownies just coming out of the water from boating, so we asked them if they wanted to see the snake.   They all said they did, so we let them walk where they could see it, but not too close.   No one shrieked, ran, or did anything that indicated they were afraid of it.   The whole interaction with the counselors, the girls, and watching the snake was amazing.   Girls in the woods who go to camp tend to appreciate the beauty of the nature that surrounds them, soaking in all that the great outdoors has to offer.


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From Scoutshire Woods...My office today overlooks Echo Lake, where one unit is kayaking, another is serenading me with camp songs from the rec hall, and yet another is out on the dock in the middle of the lake diving in.   What could be better?   The birds are singing; there's a bullfrog croaking in the frog pond; the occasional cricket frog tunes up; and there's a stunning monarch butterfly flitting near me.

This is the first time since I've been here that I felt that I could afford the time to be up here to enjoy summer camp. What a mistake.   I come up during breakfast, check on the girls and the staff, then come to my office on the edge of Echo Lake and turn on my laptop.   This is absolutely the best part of what I do -- listen to girls giggle as they fall from stand up paddle boards, probably intentionally, swim from the dock in the middle of the lake to the swim dock for the first time, or work on camp songs that they will remember for a lifetime.

This week of camp has been a great one.   Of the more the 80 girls here, I have seen only one who has a serious attitude problem.   She doesn't want to do anything.   She announced to the staff the first day she planned on not having a good time.   I'm sure if you plan not to have a good time, you won't.   The rest of the girls watched for the first half day, and then proceeded to go about trying everything camp has to offer.  

Some days it is hysterical to watch.   They are becoming more adept at actually sweeping the dining hall after they eat (rather than simply pushing the dust around!).   Many have tried the stand-up paddleboards, and their performance is pretty impressive.   Some who started afraid of the water can now put their face underwater, and some can swim. What a wonderful thing. The sound of giggling comes from all parts of camp.

I'm very pleased with the day camp option.   This week we have only had one girl, but she arrives early and tries to be away from her drivers at the end of the day so she won't have to leave.   That is a victory. We had hoped to attract some of those girls for resident camp to have the full experience.

Hopefully you and your daughter are having a great summer!

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This past week I experienced the power of the Girl Scout program.   I had the privilege of working with the Camp Sunshine staff and watching the girls of Camp Sunshine learn, grow, and prosper because of their efforts. 

Laurie Weil and Kathy Sawyer founded Camp Sunshine more than 25 years ago in Montgomery.   Its mission is to provide an OPPORTUNITY for girls to experience the power of a wonderful summer camp.   These girls have the same dreams, hopes, and desires that all girls possess.   But many don't have the opportunity to visit the Alabama Shakespeare Festival or the Montgomery Museum of Art.   They certainly don't spend their summer time shooting off bottle rockets or learning to play tennis.   What fun they had trying new things!  They even learned about bullying through modern interpretive dance.

Girls from Camp Sunshine spend the night at Kamp Kiwanis each year.   Some have never been to the woods; others have never been swimming in a lake.   They ride the zip lines, spend the night in a tent, and ride on the pontoon boat.   This part of their experience really moves them from their comfort zone.   Many of these girls, sadly, live in areas where playing outdoors are dangerous.   So the opportunity to experience the woods and all the outdoors has to offer is a wonderful gift for summer.

Camp Sunshine has provided these opportunities, and more, for thousands of girls in the Montgomery area for over 25 years.   It continues to be a resource for the girls of the Montgomery community.   More importantly, the volunteers who generously give of their time have given girls the courage, confidence, and character to make their world a better place.

Thanks to Laurie Weil and Kathy Sawyer for their unflagging generosity for so long; they have changed the world.

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I hope you have some fun in the sun and outdoors planned. I certainly do!  I think it will be a great summer.

We are moving forward on the work at Camp Sid Edmonds.   The funds from the timber sale will address the budget shortfall from a lower than anticipated cookie sale.   It is a combination of the sale of the larger timber on the outer part of the camp and a thinning for the interior of the camp.   This should create more trails through the woods for people and animals.

We are working to finish the sail loft at Kamp Kiwanis.   The winter was cruel with water line breaks at every camp property at some point, so the forward movement was curtailed with maintenance issues.   We had someone in the northern part of the state contact us to give us yet another large sailboat.   We are fortunate to have such generous individuals.   At this point, I'm considering bringing at least one of the larger sailboats down to the Mobile area so the mariners can hone their sailing skills on the bay.

We have had Kohls and Target staff work on our properties to clean them up for us.   With 36 buildings and 36 bathhouses, the wind and weather take their toll.   We also have alumnae who are scheduled to assist us in getting Kamp Kiwanis ready for resident camp, which is also a gift.

Hopefully, time with your girls and family are a central part of your summer plans.

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This week and next week as I drive to and from work I'll play Edward Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance Marches.   It is a time of exhilaration and tears.   Commencement's definition, according to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, is "a time when something begins."   I realize we sometimes see this as an ending, when, in fact, it is the beginning.

On behalf of all of GSSA's staff, I would like to congratulate the class of 2014.   What an accomplished group of girls, soon to be young women that we have had amongst us.   I have had the privilege of attending ceremonies where these girls have been honored.   They will change the world, and they have learned how to do this through Girl Scouts.   They are headed in many different directions, but all are aimed at making a difference in the lives of others.

Hopefully, this transition to the next phase of life, the new beginning, will continue to include involvement in Girl Scouts.   We work with many collegiate women through programs facilitated partnership with us, especially those involved in the Kappa Delta Sorority, but we are not limited to that partnership.  If your Girl Scout experience has been a good one, consider remaining involved, even if it is the occasional assistance to a troop where you are living.   Many of you might remember how great you thought college girls were; remember that now you are, too, for younger girls.

Also a reminder, there is a large discount when you become a lifetime member of Girl Scouts upon graduation from high school.   I urge you to consider taking advantage of that.

On behalf of the more than 10,000 girls and volunteers involved in GSSA, we wish you every success in your future endeavors.   You will have times of frustration and times of great joy in your journey ahead, but we know you will do well because of the life skills you have developed through your many experiences and the Girl Scout Leadership Experience.

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Each year troops and service units kindly donate funds to the council for camp equipment, other items for broader Girl Scout use, and current initiatives.   We are grateful for these donations and appreciate the thought that goes into them.

This year Troop 8442 of Fairhope has taken the spirit of giving one step further, and created a lasting memorial to a one of their own. The remaining members of the troop are graduating, so they are  disbanding.   They had funds left in their troop account, so they decided to honor one of their troop members, Emily Dunnam, who was killed in an accident a number of years ago.   They have established a camp scholarship fund in her name to fund girls who cannot afford to attend Girl Scout camp.

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Emily was always proud to be a Girl Scout.   Even when the troop was in middle school, she wasn't ashamed to be a Girl Scout.   Cori Yonge, one of her troop leaders, describes Emily as one of the girls at every troop activity.   She was a great soccer player, so she would come to Girl Scouts from soccer practice, and Emily enjoyed all camping outings.    Judy Hale, her other Girl Scout leader, said at the troop's ending luncheon that she would have stayed a Girl Scout until she graduated.

Girl Scouts of Southern Alabama has approved the establishment of the Emily Dunnam Camp Scholarship fund to provide financial assistance to girls who otherwise could not afford to attend camp.   The first camp scholarships will be awarded for the 2014 camp scholarship season.

Emily was an inspiration to her troop.

 


Troop 8442 has has continuously illustrated the power of what girls can do through Girl Scouts.   Thank you to them for remembering one of their own by establishing a camp scholarship fund.   Thank you to all the other troops of the council who have also made the world a better place in sharing their resources with their fellow Girl Scouts.

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Every council with camp properties has the responsibility (and cost) of proper stewardship of the land.  Ideally, this stewardship not only enhances the property for the use of our girls, but also sets up a future stable income stream.

We use a registered forester to manage all our properties because of their expertise and ability to deal in the complex world of tree farming.  Several years ago, I was told that our trees at Camp Sid would bring some money when we needed it because we had some hardwoods there that are desirable.   Since the cookie program did not reap the desired results this year, I called our forester about doing some selective thinning of the trees.   

Our forester called back to say that what he thought were some select hardwoods are really slash pines, which are not productive as a revenue stream.    Rather than leave this property and not turn it into a revenue stream for the girls, we will likely be doing a clear cut of the exterior 69 acres of the property; this is the part that lies outside or to the right of the road.   With the income reaped from the clear cut, we will replant and get that 69 acres into production.   Another facet of that project will be thinning the property to the left of the road, so there isn't a lot of fuel if a fire would break out.   Thus, this makes that part of the property more usable by girls.

A few years from now, as the planted trees become larger, we will reduce the trees on the left side of the road and put that part of the property into production.   We have done this same thing at Camp Humming Hills.   The trees up there are about three years old and they are now 5-7 feet tall.   This has not impeded troops from using the property.   By doing part of the property, then later doing the other part, you always have trees at different facets of maturity, since wind and storms can level an entire forest. This insulates the property from loss.

This is rather short notice for intensive property work, but there are some timber companies eager for this type of work, so we will capitalize on that, working to reap the most for the girls of this council.   As we look down the road, we need to find additional revenue streams to insulate from the ups and downs of the cookie program, which is our largest source of income each year.

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I came to Girl Scouts by way of Girl Scout camp.   When I was in college, I served as the assistant director of a Girl Scout camp that had 6- to 11-year-olds.   They graduated from our camp and went to the larger and more exciting one on Lake of the Ozarks for the older girls.   What a glorious job it was!

My job was the camp program. I was out in the woods all day, moving from unit to unit spelling staff so they could get their breaks.   I had an ancient Schwinn bicycle that I rode through the center part of the camp, but most of the camp was inaccessible by bicycle, and I had to hike, often alone at night, in the dark.   I learned a lot about the beauty of the woods in the evening with the sounds and movement of animals.

Why do I mention this?   Because camp is a great way for a girl who might not excel at sports or at school to recognize that she has courage, confidence and character.   I am always stunned and amazed at the girl who finds a snake in her tent and blissfully walks over to tell her counselor.   No screaming, no yelling, just a nonchalant note to the counselor that someone needs to take care of the snake so she can change her clothes to go swimming.

In today's world, where we have technology leashes through our cell phones, laptops, video games, and other devices to keep us in touch, it really leaves us out of touch -- out of touch with nature, with the melodies of the birds and the foraging of raccoons in untended trashcans.   I was spending the night at Kamp Kiwanis awhile back, when there was a huge commotion after dark. We discovered that the noise was made by an armadillo, waddling around looking for food.   Someone I was with from the staff mentioned she had never seen a live armadillo in her life.

We have some great camp opportunities this summer besides resident camp, if your daughter is worried about spending the night away.   We have a day camp option for both resident camps.   We also have established the dates with the Alabama Wildlife Federation's Lanark property in Millbrook to offer two-day camps there.   Last year, that camp received rave reviews from the girls.   We also have Sail Away, the sailing camp for girls who want to learn a lifetime sport, sailing.

We have some great opportunities for girls to increase their skills and get outdoors with their friends.   Even if their friends don't attend, we work to be sure they have others to rely on while they are at camp.   You would be surprised how spending time away from technology broadens a girl's curiosity.   Check out all our camps at www.girlscoutssa.org/camp.  I'm planning on being up at camp all summer this year; the best job you can imagine.