By NOREEN HYSLOP
A collective sigh of relief filled the air when personnel at the Dexter Girl Scout office were told Monday a decision had finally been reached regarding the possible sale of the local Girl Scout facility. A news release Monday morning confirmed that the Girl Scouts of the Missouri Heartland's Board of Directors had voted to retain the local building.
According to Monday's release, the board agreed to keep the current locations in Joplin, Springfield and Dexter. The Cape Girardeau and Jefferson City Service Centers will be sold and relocated to storefront/business operation sites that better accommodate staff size and provide more visibility within the Cape Girardeau and Jefferson City areas.
"As with all current service centers," the news release stated, "volunteers will continue to have the ability to meet with staff, drop off paperwork and shop. The timing and manner of placing the properties on the market is to be at the director's discretion."
In addition to the service center decision, the board voted to terminate the current lease for the Cow Creek property located on Table Rock Lake in the Branson, Mo area. This land will revert back to the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers.
It was feared among the local Scouting arena that the board might opt to give up the Camp Latonka area at Lake Wappapello, but according to Anne Soots, chief operating officer for the council, that property is also on the list of Girl Scout properties.
The Board of Directors began to examine the property needs of the Girl Scout's membership in the spring of 2011. In late June, the Board of Directors made the announcement that the Cape and Dexter facilities, along with one in Joplin, would go on the market "in an effort to consolidate operations on the eastern side of the council."
That decision met with considerable disapproval locally, with disgruntled volunteers, many of whom have served as volunteers within the Girl Scout community for decades, letting their feelings be known at a series of informative meetings.
The purpose of the proposed sale, officials said at the time, was to "pool resources to find a location that better accommodates staffing needs and decreases current overhead."
A public meeting was held in Dexter in August with a strong showing of concerned citizens on hand, including a significant showing of area volunteers who openly expressed their staunch opposition to the possibility of losing the local center.
Comments from that meeting and others across the area were taken to the Board of Directors to aid in the decision-making process. In the end, Soots' Monday announcement stated, "...the sale of the Dexter Girl Scout office is on hold. Sale of the Cape Girardeau Girl Scouts facility is at a standstill as well."
Typical of area leaders' reaction to Monday's announcement was that of Dexter Girl Scout Leader Jessie Sadler. "Growing up as a Girl Scout, my troop didn't have a place to call home for meetings. We were always shuffling between school, churches, and leaders homes. When it was announced that we were building a home for future Girl Scouts, I remember participating in numerous fundraisers, and had never seen such an outpour of support. Years later, when I became a Girl Scout leader, the possibility of it being sold was brought to my attention. I wondered, 'Where will my troop meet? Will they have to shuffle around like I did? What will happen to the staff?' Those thoughts have been in my mind through this entire process and when the decision to keep it was announced, I was ecstatic! All the hard work of former and present Girl Scouts to make that building what it is today is still paying off. My troop, along with others, still has a place to call 'home'."
Sadler voiced the sentiments of all area staff and leaders in commending the Girl Scouts of Missouri Heartland's Board of Directors for making what she called "a sound decision that will have a positive effect on the future of many Southeast Missouri girls and families."
Monday's release also stated that committee members determined that they needed additional time to finalize the rest of the proposal to include a more complete plan for alternative sites/programs in any areas where current properties may be eliminated. Therefore, the remaining 10 program properties will continue to be a part of the property committee discussion with a proposal slated to go to the Board of Directors in June of 2013.
The Dexter Girl Scout Office serves a total of 2250 girls and 840 adults.