She Sees The Future
Vision: To provide safe and inviting indoor and outdoor properties offering a diverse range of unique, hands-on educational activities.
During the 2007/2008 realignment of four councils into one new organization, Girl Scouts of South Carolina – Mountains to Midlands, a financial analysis quickly documented we were spending 32 percent of our operating budget on property and related program expenses while the national average is 10-15 percent. Upon that realization, between late 2007 and early 2009, the council undertook an in-depth assessment and strategic alignment of all facilities. Opportunities for input were offered to multi-constituency groups including girls, volunteers, parents, donors, community leaders, governing leaders, and staff.
Based on the feedback of the membership that responded, the Board of Directors made a decision to align property with the five driving priorities of the program strategies: destination, program match, usage, previous plans and partnerships. In 2009, after an 18-month, comprehensive analysis by outside, third-party consultants and GSUSA specialists, it was determined how to enhance our property portfolio as places of destination in alignment with desired program findings and needed volunteer support services. These findings evolved into a long-term program and property plan, She Sees the Future, which would create the ideal environment to let our girls shine. It was subsequently approved by the Board of Directors.
In keeping with the She Sees the Future Program and Property Plan, 50 percent of the sales proceeds will go towards our new and innovative programs and 50 percent towards property capital improvements. Coupled with our purchase of the former South Carolina agriculture building in downtown Columbia in 2011, we are getting closer to creating preferred destinations at all our Girl Scout sites.
These destinations will include superior indoor and outdoor experiences – things our girls said they want from Girl Scouting This downtown destination will require extensive renovations to become a state-of-the art Leadership Center, but it will be worth it when it eventually becomes a modern and high-energy environment with a particular focus on activities that surround the five areas of leadership development: Outdoor Education; the Arts; STEM; Business Enterprise; and Healthy Living.
Columbia Leadership Center:
Our council first embraced the concept of a Leadership Center in 2009, based on best practices in Girl Scouting, and on what our membership said they wanted. An ad hoc committee, co- chaired by Donna Sorensen and Justin Strickland, was tasked with turning that vision into a reality. The building purchased is the former South Carolina agriculture building located in downtown Columbia, 1101 Williams Street, at the corner of Senate Street. This property met eight of the nine criteria established by the committee.
Some of its features are:
- 32,000 square feet of space
- Two-story building
- Located next to the Congaree River in a safe, city setting
- Ample, secure parking
- Walking distance to venues like the South Carolina State Museum and Edventure Children’s Museum
The building will require extensive renovations to meet our specific needs.
Preliminary amenity plans include:
- Member-centered design
- Room for a variety of group gatherings, sizes and programs
- Girls-only lounge
- Overnight facilities such as dormitories or indoor cabins
- Indoor climbing wall
- A Girl Scout merchandise shop
- Office space to bring staff support closer to our girl and adult members
- A large meeting room
- Rooms for training and development
We are exploring the outdoor component to the Leadership Center with other organizations in the area. It is a priority to provide unparalleled outdoor experiences for our girls and in close proximity to the new Leadership Center.
Status on all Properties:
Based on our Long-Range Program & Property Plan that was approved by the board in early 2009 to better align girls’ programmatic needs and interests with properties, following is the current status:
- Sold: Camp Blue Cloud (Chester), Camp Cofitachiqui (Edgefield Co), Camp Congaree (Lexington Co), Camp Drew (Union Co), Mauldin Service Center (Mauldin), McCormick Lot (McCormick Co), Camp Star Fort (Greenwood Co)
- Currently on the Market: None
- Under Partnership Exploration: Camp Mary Elizabeth (Spartanburg), Camp Ponderosa (Spartanburg Co)
- Joint Venture: Outdoor Adventure programming
- Retain with Program Enhancements: WaBak (Marietta), Wistagoman (Anderson)
- New: Columbia Leadership Center
The Journey Continues:
We began several years ago with a genuine interest in understanding how to attract more girls to Girl Scouting, given the world we live in today. We looked deep within our organization for ways we could elevate our programming to make it more meaningful to girls. While much remains to be done on our Long-Range Program and Property Plan, our focus will continue to be on engaging our members in the process.