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5 Girl Scout councils will merge

Brian C. Rittmeyer
| Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2007

The cookies still go on sale in January.

But big changes are coming behind the scenes for Girl Scouts in Western Pennsylvania.

The scouting organization said Monday that five councils serving 40,000 girls in 27 counties will merge April 1 to form Girl Scouts Western Pennsylvania. Their leader, effective Nov. 16, is Patricia Burkart, the CEO of Keystone Tall Tree Council.

In addition to Keystone, the councils that are merging are Girl Scouts of Beaver and Lawrence Counties, Girl Scouts of Penn Lakes Council, Girl Scouts of Talus Rock Council and Girl Scouts-Trillium Council.

The merger is part of a national realignment started last year. When finished in 2009, it will reduce the number of Scout councils nationally from 312 to 109.

"Girl Scouts USA is trying to create a high-capacity Girl Scout experience," said Manhattan-based spokeswoman Michelle Tompkins. "Before the realignment, there had been some inequity. By realigning, a girl in a farm town in Iowa will have the same Girl Scouting experience as someone in midtown Manhattan."

In Pennsylvania, the number of councils will drop from 12 to three. The western councils are the last to combine. Four councils in the central part of the state combined to form Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania, and three in the east merged into Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania.

Unlike places where some councils are struggling, the five area councils are entering the merger in strong positions with high participation rates, Burkart said.

"Our goal through this realignment is to have the girls remain unaffected until we have more to offer them," said Burkart, 49, of Sarver.

"Once the merger is completed there will be more programs to offer to the girls," she said. "Girls currently being served in Somerset County will now be offered programs in Erie County, as well as in their home county and surrounding areas."

Girl Scouts Western Pennsylvania will control a $10 million budget. The five existing councils will merge assets of about $19 million, including property, equipment and operating reserves.

The current councils own or lease five headquarters, 11 offices and six smaller offices, and they own 15 camps or program centers. Decisions about what will be done with those properties have yet to be made. The new council will be headquartered Downtown and will have offices in Beaver, Clarion, Duncansville, Edinboro, Greensburg, Indiana, Johnstown, Kittanning, New Castle, Smethport and Warren.

The merger will be funded in part with grants from the Richard King Mellon Foundation, the Grable Foundation and The Forbes Funds.

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