A new place for Girl Scouts to call homeOct 06, 2015 03:29PM ● By Steven Hoffman
Anne T. Hogan (left) and Carol Boncelet outside of the Northern Resource Center in progress.
By John Chambless
As the new Northern Resource Center nears completion in Newark, the central tower of the building serves as a symbol of what the Girl Scouts organization can do – act as a beacon for girls, and shine light out into the world.
For Anne T. Hogan, the CEO of Girl Scouts of the Chesapeake Bay, the lighthouse has special resonance. During a walk-through of the building, which is due to open in January, she said, “Think about this: We sit on almost the highest point in Delaware, and our council is the whole Delmarva Peninsula. We have the bay on one side and the ocean on the other side. We are a beacon for all girls.”
The $6.5 million project is a leap of faith arrived at after the University of Delaware did not renew the ground lease for the former Girl Scouts headquarters, tucked near the base of a bridge on South College Avenue in Newark. With a December move-out date, the race was on to find another home base.
Carol Boncelet, the vice president of the capital campaign for the new headquarters, said, “our project team looked at 84 properties in northern New Castle County. This site is close to 95 and Route 1, so when we have girls come up from Smyrna, Middletown or Dover, or even farther in the Delmarva Peninsula, this is a great location.”
The seven-acre wooded property on Old Baltimore Pike was the site of a home that has been taken down, along with dozens of trees, to allow construction of the 17,500-square-foot facility. “The former owner of this property was a Girl Scout family,” Boncelet said. “So they were very excited that we got the site.”
Taking down the trees was a painful necessity, but there will be tree plantings held at the site in the spring. One of the big benefits of the site is its wooded surroundings and a stream nearby, both of which will be used for nature exploration activities with Girl Scout troops. Girls can also stay overnight in the new building, and use it for meetings and group activities. There's a retail store for sales of patches, uniforms and other Girl Scout supplies, and the administrative offices will be in one large room to facilitate communication. The inside of the beacon will house a display of photos of Girl Scouts at different levels, as well as the Girl Scout promise. A museum area will show memorabilia of Girl Scouting's long history. And there's room to park a tractor trailer behind the building during cookie selling season, so local troops can replenish their stock as the sale goes on.
All in all, the new building offers everything the organization could want. It is being funded through a capital campaign with several donor recognition levels. Girl Scout troops can get involved by holding fundraisers of their own, and past Girl Scouts will be asked to contribute what they can. The campaign is something of an easy sell, since anyone involved with Girl Scouts can see the benefits it offers.
Hogan said, “I am absolutely the woman I am today because of Girl Scouts.” She had a career in banking, joined the board of the Girl Scouts of the Chesapeake Bay, then topped a list of 80 applicants for the CEO position. “I've been here seven years now,” she sad. “Through Girl Scouting, I had leadership roles in the world of banking that I never would have had the confidence to do otherwise. With everything I have done, Girl Scouting helped me to try new things.”
For Jennifer Acord, the communications and marketing manager, “I grew up as a Girl Scout in Middletown,” she said. “I'm also a Girl Scout mom now. The big thing is the skills and the character building that you get in Girl Scouting. It was doing things you wouldn't get to do otherwise.”
Hogan added, “When we grew up, girls didn't have the opportunities to play sports, to be involved in so many things. Girl Scouting was one of the few organizations that girls could join and do things they wouldn't otherwise be able to do.”
The declining number of stay-at-home mothers, the increased demands of after-school activities and the lack of adult volunteers have worked against the Girl Scouts in recent years, but the numbers are catching up lately, Hogan said. “We have to function at the speed of girls,” she said. “Our biggest challenge is that we continually have about 300 girls on the waiting list. We cannot get volunteers. The demand is there. If we could get enough volunteers, we could greatly increase our membership.”
Boncelet said she may owe her career as an engineer to the early lessons in confidence she got in scouting. “I was a Girl Scout for a few years, I loved the camping, but that risk-taking, the idea that girls can do anything, helped me at college. At the time, I was one of two women in the Applied and Engineering Physics program at Cornell," she said. "I was at Delmarva Power for about nine years, and a couple of other utilities.”
Hogan emphasized that “any girl can be a Girl Scout,” and that those who cannot afford dues can access membership and program scholarships. There's a strong emphasis on reaching out to urban areas, and a focus on STEM education as part of Girl Souting as well. These days, Girl Scouting is less about making crafts and s'mores as it is working with a 3-D printer and learning about engineering careers.
During a walk-through of the building, as workmen hammered and drilled all around them, the women smiled broadly at the progress they were seeing. “We've raised $3.7 million at this point,” Boncelet said. “One of the things that Girl Scouts hasn't been as good at is asking people for money. We ask for their time. But now it's time for former Girl Scouts to help us out financially.”
“I would much rather put money into programs for girls than pay for a mortgage,” Hogan said. “Traditionally, this council has always raised the funds before they put a shovel in the ground. So this has caused us some challenges. But this building's going to last for the next 50 or more years for girls on this peninsula.”
There is a public ribbon-cutting scheduled on Jan. 15 at 11 a.m., and a family-friendly program on Jan. 16 from 1 to 3 p.m., with a dedication, tours, a time capsule installation and activities.
To contact Staff Writer John
Chambless, email [email protected].