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Letter to National – Debbie, Camp Klahanie

by on May 10, 2010

December 20, 2009

Chris Burton,
Chief Commissioner
Girl Guides of Canada
50 Merton Street
Toronto, ON M4S IA3

We Implore the National Board of Directors to Reconsider the Closing of Camp Klahanie

Dear Chris,

I can appreciate that during our Country’s economic turmoil, Guiding has been hard hit – but robbing our young women (and our community) of the right to develop life, leadership and learning skills within Camp Klahanie is NOT the answer.

I felt encouraged when “transformation” was introduced last year.  I believed that improvements were coming and trusted your promise that camps would not be affected.  But, I am very disappointed with the new direction of Guiding and how we have traded in our promises and laws for the almighty dollar.

As Guide Leaders we talk about confidence, resourcefulness and courage, but if these values don’t come from the top, how can they be instilled within our membership?

Guiding is not a business. It’s a non-profit organization designed to serve the girls in our province.  Yet, with the introduction of paid employees, bank accounts, credit cards and group insurance deals we have somehow crippled the institution we love so much.  What happened to the friends we could trust and the leaders we looked up to?

But, more importantly, I am writing to you in hopes that you will reconsider the closing of Camp Klahanie.

Camp Klahanie is Steeped with History and Local Support!

The property was donated 50 years ago to the Girl Guides by a local Goderich resident, John Hindmarsh.

This property has no well or road access. The Hindmarsh family graciously allows access through their property and our water comes from a residential well which belongs to the Hindmarsh family.

The Lions Club of Goderich donated the money to build our two buildings and throughout the years, many local plumbers, electricians and labourers have donated time and materials for repairs. Surprisingly not all of these contractors have children, but they strongly believe in the Guiding program and the importance of supporting our local girls.

Our Community Will Be Devastated!

Our benefactor, John Hindmarsh was extremely generous in sharing his vast knowledge about nature.  His vision was to give local girls a renewed enthusiasm for the outdoors. He donated this camp property to teach our girls how important it is to value and protect our natural heritage.

I have spoken to the Hindmarsh family and they are extremely upset about the closure of Camp Klahanie. They welcome an opportunity to express their views and let you know how important the continuance of our camp is to their family.

Doesn’t our ”Donor Bill of Rights” (#4) clearly state: “To be assured their gifts will be used for the purposes for which they were given”?

This sale won’t go unnoticed! Following John’s death in 1995 our community responded with a great outpouring of sadness, affection and gratitude for John’s generosity. Losing one of the projects John Hindmarsh held so dear will negatively impact our community as well as Guiding.

Camp Klahanie is “Financial Prudent”

I was shocked to hear about the $1,376,652 deficit in 2008 and that most camps have been operating in a deficit for many years. But perhaps those are the camps you should be closing?

According to our calculations, at the end of August our deficit would be approximately $340 – which primarily resulted from the Board’s decision to insure all camps together and made our rates jump from $382 to $763 annually.

Are you telling me that a measly $340 is the reason for our Camp’s closure?

Because when Joanne Henderson said, “not to worry about the extra costs” we trusted her. Had we known that we were facing a Klahanie camp closure we could have easily recouped that money with cookie sales or a community fundraiser.

I assure you, not one guider has ever received a $100 travel allowance, nor has any volunteers asked to be compensated for their support. We do it willingly for our LOCAL girls.

A $340 deficit can’t possibly compare to what the Ontario Administrative Staff is costing us to set up all the finances or the fees being paid to the consulting firm responsible for dissolving the camps.  Why should Camp Klahanie and our community be penalized by administration setbacks or mishandlings?

In Marnie’s announcement it said, “As long as we continue to cover the losses of the camp properties, we must consider discontinuing other services and supports to the Members.”  This makes no sense to me, because out of the$125.00 registration free our unit only gets $15 per girl. Certainly, part of the remaining $110 can be used to boost membership and generate more money?

I foresee a membership reduction not an increase.

I realize we are not located in a large metropolis (with census statistics of 2,614 girls registered). Our district includes only three small towns; Goderich, Bayfield and Clinton, but your decision should not be based on simple demographics.

The nearest camp would be 1 hour 40 minutes away, which makes it impossible for nervous first time Sparks to enjoy the day and return to the security of their beds at night.  We would lose the many parent volunteers who pop in to our camp for an hour or two at a time … and lose the Firemen and Paramedics who kindly bring out their fire trucks and ambulances for the girls to explore, as well as our clowns who may not be so willing to drive to Harriston or Parkhill for free.

Rather than opting for an immediate cash grab, please allow us to help you create strategies that increase membership and meet capacity.

We Have Great Plans For 2010…

2010 commemorates the 50th anniversary of Camp Klahanie and 100 years of Guiding in Ontario.  To celebrate, we have planned a large community “Camp Day” at Camp Klahanie for all past and current Girl Guides, supporters and volunteers.  Plus, we have already accepted many bookings for next year.

We are a strong, self-sufficient camp with an abundance of community support. If the community knows the camp is in trouble they will step forward to help.

As an integral part of Guiding, don’t we and our respective communities deserve an opportunity to respond to the decision and present our point of view?

We feel that you are acting too quickly and leaving no room for alternative proposals or analysis.  Once these properties are sold, there is no going back. Suitable land, especially in Southwestern Ontario, is precious and very difficult to find.

Please reconsider the closing of Camp Klahanie.

Warmest regards,

Debbie Bell
1st Goderich Brownies
Camp Klahanie

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