Longtime Girl Scout Debbie Ellis says she’s “shocked” by the announcements this week that Board President Rachel Russell and five members of the board of directors for the Girl Scouts of North-Central Alabama are resigning.
According to Ellis, board member Mary Edna Wuertenberger wrote to elected delegates on June 20 announcing the resignations, stating: “This is indeed a huge loss for our organization, but we respect their decision and thank each of them for their time and board service to our membership.”
In addition to the president, the treasurer and chair of the finance committee have stepped down, according GSNCA Community Partnership Chief Russell Jackson.
The announcement comes one week after a GSNCA board decision to reevaluate the contentious three-phase property plan that included the sale of Trussville’s 88-year-old Camp Coleman, and which divided local Scout members for more than a year. Last week’s decision, according to both members of the grassroots group who have been fighting to save camps and the council who has been working toward long-term operational sustainability, was a step in the right direction for the organization.
Wuertenberger’s letter, which was provided to Weld by Ellis, addressed the timing of the resignations, stating, “This is a challenging time for our board, and I feel it is important that I acknowledge that. Let me assure you we are committed to working together to continue the important work of our organization.”
Dawn Stanley of Huntsville, recently elected first vice president, has accepted the position of president of the Council.
Her official statement about the resignations echoes Wuertenberger’s letter, reading, “We respect their decision and thank each of them for their time and board service to our membership. Their contributions were numerous and each of them remains supportive to GSNCA and our mission. This is a challenging time for our board members; however, they are excited about the upcoming strategic planning process that will garner the best and most creative solutions from the membership, outside experts and community partners, all in an effort for determining how we best meet, grow and sustain our Girl Scout outdoor programs for generations to come.”
The decision to reevaluate — tabling the sale of Coleman and other camps until a new plan is produced in January 2014 — had a major impact, said Jane Duax of Iowa City, Iowa, whose local council faces similar camp property issues. “This is great victory for the girls of Alabama and a step in the right direction by the newly elected Girl Scout of North-Central Alabama Board,” Duax said.
But the resignations raise questions for many local Scouts like Ellis. “Why now?” she wondered. Like so many members in the 36-county GSNCA council of 20,000 members, Ellis was excited to see her beloved Scouts working together.
Ellis hopes an explanation of the resignations will be sent to membership.
Members raised concerns about the impact of the resignations on the organization’s reputation at a time when community support is so vital.
Scout members are also aware that the plan to reevaluate property divestment requires a great deal of board member time and that members’ emotions are still running high when discussing the possible closing of camps.
While nonprofit board resignations are commonplace — the demands of life in 2013 have left many nonprofits searching for volunteers with the time to commit to a mission — the GSNCA resignations hit the organization during a period of recuperation.
Local Scouts, however, are not alone in facing difficult decisions. News sources across the nation, including investigations in the journal Philanthropy, have reported on national problems.
Leadership at the Manhattan-based national headquarters for Girl Scouts continues to take the heat from grassroots Scout groups arising across the nation, including a group calling itself The Future is Ours. The group of Scouting Millennials, concerned with the organization’s dedication to the Scouting mission, is demanding an open discussion regarding the organization’s financial stability — including trouble with pension plans, property divestment, increasing membership dues and declining membership.
Girl Scouts strive to “build girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.” After more than 100 years of serving America’s young women, members across the nation struggle to decide what the organization will look like in another 100 years.
Here’s the full text of the letter:
Dear GSNCA Delegates and Alternate Delegates,
I regret to inform you of the resignation of our Board President, Rachel Russell. In addition to Rachel, Cindi Vice, Paige Daniel, Henley Smith, Wendy Evesque, and Mariah Chapman have also resigned from the Girl Scouts of North-Central Alabama Board of Directors.
This is indeed a huge loss for our organization but we respect their decision and thank each of them for their time and board service to our membership. Their contributions were numerous and each of them remains supportive to GSNCA and our Mission.
I am pleased to report that Dawn Stanley, first vice president, has agreed to serve as president. Dawn is in her first year of her second term on the GSNCA board and she is a Woman of Distinction from 2006 in North Alabama.
Laura Huckabee-Jennings, board development committee (BDC) Chair and her team will be working to fill positions in accordance with our by-laws.
This is a challenging time for our board and I feel it is important that I acknowledge that. Let me assure you we are committed to working together to continue the important work of our organization. Since the board was elected on 27 April 2013 we have we have already begun this process. At our 12 June board meeting we unanimously agreed to re-evaluate our Three-Phase Property Plan in response to membership feedback. We are in the process of developing our standing and ad hoc committees to address strategic planning, finance, by-laws, property, communication, adult awards and more.
I have every confidence that Dawn, in partnership with the entire board of directors, will continue to meet these challenges and fulfill our mission… For the Girls!
Communication is key to successful relationships. At every delegate training I facilitated this spring I promised to nurture this communication process. I look forward to our conversations together in the service of Girl Scouting.
As an elected delegate to your area, I ask that you forward this announcement to your service unit team and troop leaders so they too are made aware of these changes. I hope that I have included every delegate and alternate to this message using the e-mail lists provided to me. However if you are made aware of anyone who did not receive this message, please let me know right away so I can add them to my distribution list. I am in the process of matching addresses to names and revising.
Yours in Girl Scouting,
Mary Edna Wuertenberger
3rd Vice President
Girl Scouts of North-Central Alabama