By Todd Cohen
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Lori Hurd was settling into her first staff meeting as executive director of the Girl Scouts, Hornets’ Nest Council, when news arrived of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.
“That moment really strengthened my commitment to growing strong girls, to why I was here, why I’m doing what I’m doing today,” she says. “In a nation and world that are really crying for strong leadership, Girl Scouts are providing strong, competent leadership.”
Preparing girls to be leaders in a time of change is a job that itself requires leadership and change, says Hurd, who on Sept. 4 succeeded Patricia Baldwin, the council’s long-time executive director.
Baldwin, who retired in February, last year helped the council sketch its long-term vision.
Faced with rapid growth in the eight-county region it serves, particularly among diverse groups such as Latinos and Asians, the council concluded it needed to reach more girls and recruit more adult Scout leaders.
“This organization lives and breathes its pluralism philosophy, and that’s something I haven’t seen often in my history,” says Hurd, who has headed a rape crisis center in Kentucky, worked in public schools in Atlanta and Charlotte and most recently served as chief development officer for the YWCA of Central Carolinas in Charlotte.
In recent years, for example, the council has launched initiatives to better serve the region’s growing population of Muslims and Latinos.
To translate its long-term vision of inclusiveness into a detailed blueprint, Hurd says, the council first must take stock of itself and the community.
So she has commissioned two studies – one to track demographic trends and patterns, and identify underserved groups, the other to assess the council’s need for technology.
The staff and board then will set goals for new troops, new volunteers, new technology, new facilities and new programs.
The council, which has 12,000 scouts and 5,000 volunteers and likely will launch a capital campaign to pay for the resources it needs, already is pursuing several new initiatives to handle growth and change.
The council, for example, is seeking $1 million to teach math, science and technology skills to girls, following a $1 million partnership with Discovery Place that the National Science Foundation funded in the late 1990s to boost math, science, technology and engineering skills for volunteer leaders and girls.
To make scouting more attractive to women with busy schedules and to teen girls aiming to use and develop their tech skills, the council has launched both online volunteer training and troops that meet three times a month online plus once in person.
And, building on its recent efforts to reach Muslim and Latino girls, the council next spring will hire its first Asian specialist.
“What we’re challenged to do,” Hurd says, “is to find ways to make sure that every girl who wants to be a Girl Scout has that opportunity.”