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Guides play tug-of-war over cash

by on June 17, 2010

Barrie Advance news article:

  • Laurie Watt, STAFF             Jun 17, 2010 – 6:00 AM

Guides play tug-of-war over cash

Guides play tug-of-war over cash. Stan Howe photo

SPRINGWATER – Longtime Girl Guide leaders risk being thrown off a local camp committee if they do not hand over $250,000 raised for a lodge, according to spokesperson Denise Calvert.

Calvert said the money was raised to build a lodge at Camp Tewateno in Springwater but due to administrative changes in Ontario Guiding, the committee is being told to give its cash to the Toronto headquarters.

“Those funds are in trust for the local girls for a specific purpose,” Calvert told The Advance. “It would be inappropriate to send those monies to the province.”

Not only is the committee refusing to transfer its funds to Toronto, it is planning to return the money to those who donated in the first place.

“We want to contact people who have contributed the money, so they can have the option of getting it back. They need to contact us now,” she said.

The Camp Tewateno committee envisioned building a lodge this year to mark the 100th anniversary of the Girl Guides of Canada. The lodge would enable girls and women of all ages to enjoy the Midhurst camp year-round. In its efforts to raise the roof, the committee held bingos, draws and fundraisers in addition to the Girl Guide standby of selling cookies.

With 30 years as a volunteer leader and administrator, Calvert served as area commissioner (overseeing groups from Parry Sound to Collingwood to Bradford) and was its voice on the organization’s provincial council before a re-organization changed the composition of the provincial council and eliminated local organizational layers.

The initiative, called Transformation, has also resulted in Toronto seizing control of camps. Last fall, it opted to close 16 and keep 17, including Tewateno, open.

“By downsizing to 17 camps, we feel we will be in a strong position to retain the camps. We will be able to intensify use. We will be in a better position to manage our financial resources,” Ontario Guiding’s provincial commissioner Marnie Cumming told The Advance.

She, however, would not say whether all 17 would remain open indefinitely.

“There are five camps (near Barrie),” Cumming said, listing not only the Midhurst camp but others owned by Toronto-area groups in New Lowell, Hawkestone, Colgan and Palgrave. “There is quite a density of Girl Guide camps within a very short radius of Barrie. There were no closures there because (Barrie) is close to a large population base, including the GTA.”

Camp Tewateno dates back to 1992. Local Girl Guides searched for land for years and finally settled on 100 acres in Springwater. They put in services and roads, so girls could camp there. Despite numerous camps in the area, local leaders had found booking a weekend camp challenging.

Cumming said development decisions, like building a lodge, rest with the provincial council while local camp committees are focused on maintenance.

“(On) major decisions regarding capital investment, a local group puts together a proposal and it is brought to provincial council,” she said.

Calvert and others were concerned about their camps; 32 camp representatives from across Ontario met in Barrie in March. A group, On My Honour, was formed.

“The camp closings are a symptom of Transformation,” said Calvert, adding another meeting is scheduled for June 27, 2 to 4 p.m.

The group is urging the provincial council to release a property evaluation and feasibility report, and discuss it with them.

Their requests have been denied, and Cumming declined to discuss the Tewateno specifics with The Advance.

Past provincial commissioner Maggie Van Dusen said she supports On My Honour and the local leaders’ desire to return the money to donors if no lodge will be built.

“When we voted for Transformation, we voted yes, we need to look at downsizing,” she said, adding leaders were repeatedly assured their camps and their money would remain in local hands.

“Transformation is not working. I put in more than 30 years and after a whole lot of soul-searching and talking with people, I’m done. I cannot continue with what’s out there,” she said.

Still, the Springwater showdown continues. In a June 8 letter, Cumming instructed the local committee to hand over the cash in its operating and investment accounts by June 18, and in its fundraising accounts by June 30.

The camp committee was also told to shut down its website here.

“Continued non-compliance will lead to more serious corrective action including suspension of your appointment as a member of the Camp Tewateno (committee),” she wrote.

To contact Calvert about the meeting or to have donations returned, email or leave a message at 220-4122.

  1. denise permalink

    Hi Meg
    The meeting on June 27th is at the Zehr’s on Bayfield St. & Livingstone St.
    We look forward to meeting you!
    Where are you coming from?

  2. I’m with you ladies! Though I might be hours away, I’ll be there on June 27th (I’ll need an address of the meeting place though). Stay strong, we will not be bullied. Girl Guides work together, stop forcing Transformation down our throats! It’s not working!

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