The Girl Scouts of Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois have everyone’s attention now.
Council members who oversee programming for nearly 20,000 scouts in 38 counties did something amazing: They proposed a bold initiative, scrupulously vetted it in robust public meetings, listened to member feedback and changed their minds.
Scout leaders announced Wednesday they would not proceed with the sale of four remaining regional scout camps.
At one moment, our region’s Girl Scouts were awash in controversy, racked with dissension, mired in a lawsuit and facing the wrath of most of the 5,000 adult volunteers.
With a single decision, regional council leaders have earned 5,000 engaged allies, confident they were heard, appreciated and valued in a new mission to revitalize scouting.
Sure, the Scouts still face some daunting problems: A $600,000 annual operating deficit at the camps and a target demographic more interested in iPads than campfires.
But the passion inspired by the camp proposal energized scouting supporters in ways no one could have envisioned. The council’s abrupt about-face could be seen as a retreat from the controversy. Or, it could more positively be viewed as acknowledgement of popular sentiment and an invitation to turn overwhelming opposition into a productive alliance.
That last part is a tall order. It’s always easier to generate opposition to an idea than recruit participants for change.
But these are Girl Scouts. They’re doers, not just talkers. They took a wonderfully simple oath to God and country and to help people at all times.
The council’s decision leaves lots to be done.
The future of the camps can now be decided collaboratively based on a new course charted by members, volunteer leaders and a governing council that has demonstrated respect for them.
We’re eager to see what happens next.
Camp supporters on the Girl Scouts of Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois Facebook page salute the decision:
“Thank you for listening and slowing down this process. Let’s work together to have a super camping experience for our girls of today and tomorrow. SOS Camps have a lot of great ideas and are not afraid to dig in there and do what needs to be done for the girls within this 38-county council.”
Jane I. Duax, Davenport
“Thanks to everyone who has participated in this process. But the work is just beginning and we need to start putting a more personal touch to everyone in the council and start working together as a team and council, both volunteers and staff. Let the rebuilding begin!”
Mary Lou Cotton, Decorah, Iowa