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Property Updates

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Property News

We believe that all girls deserve the opportunity to participate in a collection of unique experiences that help them to discover who they are, develop important life skills, and take action to make the world a better place.

That’s why GCNWI is focused on establishing just the right mix of owned and leased properties so girls in 2020 and beyond can select from a wide variety of choices and activities that are progressive, exciting, and rewarding.

It’s an ever-evolving, strategic and thoughtful process that comes to life when we see girls flying overhead on the new zipline and adventure ropes course installed this year at Camp Butternut Springs, thanks to the generosity of Al Hanna.

To understand the history, current state and future steps of our master property plan, please read the sections below, and check back often as we add updates on our progress.

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First Take a Quick Look Back

In 2008, we inherited a large collection of properties when seven Girl Scout councils came together to form one council serving 245 communities in 10 counties (six in Illinois and four in Indiana).

After the merger GCNWI had to face some tough decisions about those 12 camp and program-related properties, as well as numerous office spaces, including some that needed extraordinary amounts of TLC. We knew we needed to do something intentional and thoughtful to keep our focus on our mission and not on endless repairs and maintenance.

The GCNWI Long Range Property Planning Committee (LRPPC) was formed at the request of our board of directors to study all our properties and make recommendations for a plan.

The LRPPC was comprised of a phenomenal group of dedicated volunteers and professionals alike who devoted hundreds of volunteer hours each over the course of nearly two years to draft an initial master property plan that best reflected our focus on current and future generations of Girl Scouts.

The members of the LRPPC made on-site visits to get an intimate look at the current state of each property. They also reviewed each property’s potential to support future programming directions, the resources located near each property, and analyzed detailed documents filled with usage statistics, anticipated costs for repairs and ADA requirements, and many other relevant financials.

Then, in 2011, GCNWI took its first steps to bring the plan to life by identifying several properties that best matched our vision for girls and volunteers now and in the future. We knew that it would be best if we concentrated our resources and energy on enhancing those properties.

That also meant embracing a decision to retire and sell several properties, a difficult but necessary process that would allow us to move forward as a council.

Our Current State

Over the course of the eight years since GCNWI first announced its master property plan, the council has been striving to honor its pledge to “use resources wisely.”

We are now financially healthy after a few lean early years when the economy took a downward turn and all nonprofits struggled to balance their budgets.

With those years behind us, we are now fortunate to be able to be strategic about how we offer great programming to girls and where those activities take place. The great news is that we are seeing more and more girls embrace outdoor experiences, especially through our dynamic summer camp sessions and custom programming weekends.

Those successes mean that we are now able to really ready to begin investing our resources back into four primary properties that were identified back in 2011 as key to serving all areas of our council footprint: Camp Juniper Knoll (Wisconsin), Camp Greene Wood and Camp Palos (both in Illinois), and Camp Butternut Springs (Indiana).

It is important to understand that between 2010 – 2015, no property improvements were made. Then, between 2016 – 2019, we started to invest again. We put approximately $7 million dollars into new or improved amenities at several of our properties.

Yet even with those improvements, we are still faced with a daunting deferred maintenance issue, with needed repairs and updates exceeding $30 million.

Too many of our properties, some used far less than others, need significant attention. With the resources we do have to invest, the money would be spread so thin across all of properties just to keep them operating safely, we would not be able to make the kind of programmatic impact we hope to make so generations of girls look forward to going to camp.

Pools desperately need repair or to be replaced, buildings and camp sites need repairs to keep them safe, and infrastructure issues at several camps need addressing to make them usable.

After much consideration, and with the guidance of volunteers and subject matter experts, it is time for GCNWI to launch the next phase of its master property plan so we can focus our resources at a more appropriate and manageable portfolio of properties.

This is an emotionally difficult yet exciting time. We acknowledge that change is difficult, but by making additional decisions about lesser-used properties which are not fully utilized and those requiring more maintenance that we can accommodate, we can turn our limited resources to building state-of-the-art amenities at a smaller number of properties where use is much higher.

It is also time to reconsider how we best serve our members through our gathering places. We will begin that process by listing for sale two currently owned properties, one in Homewood and the other in Merrillville. Leasing new spaces somewhere in the near vicinity of those same communities will enable us to better serve our members. We also are considering next steps for our Chicago space at 20 S. Clark since that lease expires in 2021.

Next Phase of Our Plan

With GCNWI in a financial healthy state, and a three-year strategic plan to guide our decisions, it is time for us to launch the next phase of our master property plan.

Just as before, GCNWI intends to be thoughtful and strategic about carrying out our plan, keeping our decisions focused on what’s best for current and future generations of Girl Scouts.

Our objective will be to implement a plan that will:

  • keep our focus on the evolving needs of girls
  • thoughtfully, thoroughly align to our strategic vision
  • acknowledge the council's healthy financial position
  • reflect our readiness to invest in enhanced experiences for future generations
  • transparently engage stakeholders in next steps and solutions
  • reduce our need to divert dollars to deferred maintenance issues
  • shift to leased office solutions to keep focus on mission, not repairs

Our next steps will be to list as available for sale three camp/program properties (Pokanoka, River Trails, and Friendship Center) and two gathering places (Homewood and Merrillville).

All properties will continue to be open and in use until such time as the property is sold. Every effort will be made to honor existing programs and activities at those properties during what can often be a very lengthy selling process.

In the meantime, we will be forming task groups to help us consider:

  1. how to best honor and transition our properties when they sell,
  2. how to determine the best locations for new leased spaces as gathering places, and
  3. how to best incorporate our prized historical archives into the plans and make our Girl Scout history accessible to more of our members and their families.

Our plans are continuously evolving and will continue to do so as new options and opportunities present themselves. We will continue to share updates in this space and through other forms of council communication as those plans unfold.

In the meantime, if please send any questions and comments related to our properties to longrangeproperty@girlscoutsgcnwi.org.

 

Take a look at an overview of the next stage of our Master Property Plan