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There’s A Lesson In Girl Scout Mess

Wed., May 31, 1995, midnight

Young girls might not seem as if they are paying close attention to the adult women in their lives.

Many have perfected those deep sighs that signal exasperation at the embarrassing antics of grown-ups. But never forget that girls are astute observers as they learn how to be women in the world.

So be on guard, women of the Girl Scout Inland Empire Council. The younger generation is watching you slog through the mess you now find yourselves in. How well you clean up the mess - or how badly you bungle it - will be remembered for years.

What a mess. Let’s see. There exists a $100,000 deficit, the largest in at least a decade. Council financial reports that explain the deficit were way overdue.

Then there’s some nasty infighting. Volunteers are angry at council leaders. Paid staff members are worried about their jobs and are trying to join a union. Paranoia, fear and secrecy abound. This is not the Pentagon, mind you, but an 18-county council that covers North Idaho and Eastern Washington.

Then there are the more than 4,400 girls who busted their behinds selling cookies only to find out that a promised 1996 national summer camp in North Idaho was canceled. The national office sent the plans packing partly because of the conflict and turmoil in the council.

To be fair, many nonprofit groups experience crises as they grow. The crisis will pass; too many fine minds work for the Inland Empire council for it not to. But the way in which the crisis passes, that’s what the girls will be watching. That’s what they will remember as adults when they serve on boards and become workplace leaders.

So, some things to keep in mind in coming weeks: Be as honest as you can. Meet in the open. The special meeting Thursday was a good start. Invite anyone who is interested. Not the most efficient method to solve a problem, but one that builds trust.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Surely the national office has seen similar crises. Or perhaps councils elsewhere can offer guidance on how they made it through the rough times.

Admit your mistakes. Be blunt with people who prefer rancor to resolution and get off your team those unwilling to work hard for an end to the crisis.

Girl Scouts builds leaders through positive events such as cookie sales, camps, rituals. This is the perfect opportunity to teach young women that the best lessons can arrive during the most painful of times.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Rebecca Nappi/For the editorial board

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