COLFAX, N.C. — When Marci Brown started tagging along at age four with her older sister’s Girl Scout troop in rural southern Ohio and then joined the Brownies at age 7, scouting involved activities in group settings in which girls earned badges recognizing their achievement in traditional activities like cooking, sewing and art.
Today, under a new strategy announced three years ago by Girl Scouts of the U.S.A., scouts now will be working, in groups and as individuals, on “journeys” designed to help girls first gain a sense of themselves, then of the immediate groups they are involved in, and finally of their larger communities and the roles they can play in addressing community needs.
“That’s when a girl begins to identify how she can make a difference,” says Brown, CEO of the Girl Scouts, Tarheel Triad Council.
As part of the new strategy, the Girls Scouts are consolidating local councils and consolidating and working to simplify their volunteering system.
Nationally, the Girls Scouts are reducing to 109 from 317 the number of independently-chartered councils throughout the U.S., including the consolidation of North Carolina’s seven councils into two.
The two councils that had been based in Raleigh and Goldsboro merged in October 2007, and the Colfax-based Tarheel Triad Council is scheduled to merge Oct. 1 with the four councils based in Asheville, Gastonia, Hickory and Charlotte, which includes York County in South Carolina.
The new western Carolinas council will be known as Girl Scouts of the Carolinas Peaks to Piedmont.
With a combined budget of roughly $10 million, the five councils in employ 124 people and serve roughly 40,000 girls.
By streamlining administrative and back-office operations, Brown says, the consolidated council will aim to “put a lot more emphasis on membership development and retention and support for our volunteers.”
The offices of the Tarheel Triad Council at Magnolia Manor in Colfax are serving as transitional headquarters for the merger, with the offices of each of the other councils serving as regional service centers.
Overseeing the merger is a “council realignment committee” to which the board of each of the five councils has named four members.
While the merged council will not need five CEOS or five finance directors, for example, and will in fact conduct a search for a CEO, Brown says, the consolidation is not likely to result in much reduction in staff but rather in a shift in the focus of existing positions to put greater emphasis on serving girls and volunteers.
The five councils also have placed a moratorium on making decisions about their property, which includes the headquarters office each council owns and roughly nine camps ranging in size from five acres to 600 acres.
The Charlotte-based Hornets’ Nest Council last year purchased 600 acres, still not developed, in Iredell County, and the Tarheel Triad Council owns the 400-acre Camp Keyauwee in Randolph County.
Making the merger happen will require the development of a plan and agreement to merge, including new bylaws, new articles of incorporation, and a slate of officers and board members for the first year.
In May and June, delegates selected by each council will vote on the merger, and documents will be filed with the state over the summer to merge the five councils’ assets and liabilities.
While the Girls Scouts are taking a new approach to developing girls as leaders, Brown says, what will not change is the Scouts’ mission to “build girls of courage, confidence and character who make the world a better place.”
Brown, the daughter of a Girl Scout and Eagle Scout and the mother of two grown daughters who still are Girl Scouts, says her own experience as a Scout helped her develop self-confidence.
“Girl Scouting gave me a place I could try new things,” says Brown, who has devoted her entire 30-year professional career to the Scouts. “It was okay to fail. Nobody judged you. You could make a mistake and start over and get it right the next time.”