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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

Nearly 10 years ago Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana (GSGCNWI) diligently began work on a Master Property Plan designed to honor its pledge to “use resources wisely.”

Our vision is to invest our limited resources in a smaller number of dynamic camp properties for greater appeal to current and future girls, families, and volunteers. In addition, we are planning to utilize more local, leased options for some of our offices and program spaces, rather than owning buildings that need significant maintenance and repair.

The plan focuses on investing in four primary properties that were identified back in 2011 as key to serving our council footprint: Camp Juniper Knoll (Wisconsin), Camp Greene Wood and Camp Palos (both in Illinois), and Camp Butternut Springs (Indiana).

Due to our financial situation in the years between 2010 – 2015, no property improvements were made. Then, between 2016 – 2019, as our finances stabilized, we started to invest again. To date, GSGCNWI has invested approximately $7 million dollars into new or improved amenities at several of our properties.

Those improvements focus on enhancing girl experiences. We have added a high ropes course and zipline to Camp Butternut Springs and completed construction on two troop camping cabins which are waiting to welcome girls after the pandemic subsides. A new sewer system at BNS, downed-tree removals, painting, and numerous maintenance projects at many of our other properties have been part of ongoing efforts to keep our properties running and safe for girls and volunteers.

In fall 2019, GSGCNWI announced that we would be listing for sale several council-owned properties as part of our GSGCNWI Master Property Plan.  

As of Sept. 4, 2020, Friendship Center in Country Club Hills, IL, has an interested buyer, and the sale is pending. If the sale proceeds as expected, the process should conclude by early January 2021.

In anticipation of the sale, the contents of the buildings on this property will be relocated to other council-owned facilities. That process will include relocating the collection of historical Girl Scout items being curated by our council historians.

The realities of the pandemic prompted us to significantly reduce the number of in-person events at any property, including Friendship Center. Therefore, the pending sale process will not interfere with planned programming at the facility.

All future updates will be shared and posted here.  

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