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A Girl Scout Story - June 2009 

Shawnee Council has an important story to share with the world….and we share that story with our sister council – the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital! 
Since our council announced its intention to merge with the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital Council earlier this year …our story has moved through many interesting chapters and finds us writing the final words of the story this summer. At a future time, a much more interesting and detailed story will be written about this new adventure in the lives of two councils. 

Our story will start with both Boards of Directors approving the merger at their meetings in the month of March. Those two votes were the first of four necessary corporate votes to approve and move forward with the merger. 

On a bright morning in early April, Nation’s Capital held its Annual Meeting where their council delegates voted unanimously for the merger. The small band of Shawnee members attending were greeted warmly, treated like royal guests, and we came away feeling eager to become a part of this strong vigorous council. 

Next, we at Shawnee scrambled to organize a Special Council meeting to be held on May 9 in Winchester, Virginia. The fourth and final vote needed to come from the Shawnee Council delegates. To say that it was a very special day is truly an understatement! It was a great day in Girl Scouting! It was a day when the story of the sisterhood of Girl Scouting was at its very best! 

Let’s visit that special day and hear that story up-close-and-personal! 

The stage was set at the Lee Jackson Best Western Hotel in Winchester, VA. Signs proclaiming “Shawnee and Nation’s Capital – One Great New Council” were in view as meeting attendees approached the hotel…..more signs were found as folks proceeded toward the ballroom, and more signs decked the walls inside! 

Over 200 people attended: 102 Shawnee delegates including the entire Shawnee Board of Directors, 75 Shawnee volunteers and girls, a large VIP 24-person delegation from Nation’s Capital, and 2 representatives of GSUSA. The stage was set and the people in place! We were ready for the meeting to begin! 

President Berniece Collis opened our meeting and introduced Mayor Elizabeth Minor, Winchester, who welcomed us to their wonderful city. As many women will tell you, Mayor Minor was a Girl Scout and shared her personal memories and thoughts as well as extending a warm welcome to Winchester. 

Evelyn Kane, PRP, our steadfast parliamentarian was with us for our final Council meeting. We were so glad to see her as she had recently been ill. It was a good omen to have Evelyn with us. 

Cathy Dalke, our Board Secretary presented the minutes from our November 15, 2008 regular Annual Meeting. Joel Demick, Treasurer, presented a mid-year Treasurer’s report along with board member Robin Zanotti giving everyone an update on fund development activities. Shawnee Council was still traveling on its “Pathway to Financial Excellence”! 

Shawnee Council is moving towards the status of “Legacy Council” – defined as a council whose corporate existence has ended. As this day nears it was important to stop to honor our beloved council. Marguerite Cyr of Hagerstown, MD was the very first President of Shawnee when the council was formed in 1963. Marguerite told a heartwarming story of the early days of the council and linked those days with today’s events. Marguerite abandoned all her speech notes and just talked to all of us as if we were sitting in her living room. She continues to be an inspiration to all of us! 

Next, Shelda and Jim Longerbeam, Winchester, shared their stories. Shelda was the Executive Director of the Blue Ridge Girl Scout Council, one of the four small area councils destined to create Shawnee Council. Both Shelda and Jim had served as Board Presidents in the early days of Shawnee Council and we learned that Shelda, in true Girl Scout fashion, does not give way to anyone’s important position or high Army rank! The mission of Girl Scouting always came first! 

Senior Girl Scout Lindsay Cobb captivated everyone with her words which directed us to look to the future! Lindsay represented her fellow Shawnee Girl Scouts and listening to her reaffirmed that this merger was good for our Shawnee girls. 

President Berniece Collis and Chief Executive Officer, Maggie Witherbee presented the Realignment Task Force Report. It was a great tale to tell! They talked about the early phone calls, the January meeting of board and staff groups from each council, Maggie and Jan Verhage’s (Executive Director for Nation’s Capital) breakfast at the national CEO meeting in early February, the subsequent merger negotiation meeting in late February, board votes in March, the April 4 Nation’s Capital Annual Meeting, finally bringing us up to May 9! 

Diane Tipton, Board President for Nation’s Capital, presented their view - they were totally supportive of the merger and eager to welcome their fourteen new counties. Diane was feeling wonderful for her daughter had received her Gold Award this spring! 

Finally, Linda Foreman, National Board Vice President, offered comments of support. As we all know, GSUSA originally had another realignment plan in mind for Shawnee Council. We were pleased to hear Linda’s words of support and encouragement. 

It was time to vote. 

Ross Curtis, Shawnee Board member, offered the motion to: “Approve the merger agreement and the merger of Shawnee Council with the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital”. 

Berniece called for the vote…………it was unanimous! There were hugs and cheers all around! 

Maggie talked briefly about Shawnee Council’s Pathway to Excellence. Shawnee had worked hard to earn an unqualified charter, which means they have achieved the benchmarks of excellence set by GSUSA. The five years of hard work had prepared Shawnee to become a viable strong merger partner for Nation’s Capital. 

Something was missing…………………what would Juliette Gordon Low think about council mergers in the year of 2009………just 97 years after she founded Girl Scouting??!! 

And as we wished and wondered….…………..Juliette appeared! 

Juliette (aka Lynne Siebert) gave her blessing to our merger and again, it was a good omen for a bright future! 

Nation’s Capital took the stage!! Jan Verhage bonded with the Shawnee members showing them the warm welcoming face of her council. Lidia Soto-Harmon, Deputy Executive Director and Barbara Hunter Mahan, Board Member, gave a detailed power point show outlining the programs and activities of Nation’s Capital. Everyone was focused …….all eyes and ears were catching every word……we were impressed! Our girls had seven additional camps to choose from….programs sponsored by Geico…and Capital One. WOW! 

The best was saved for last - the signing of the merger agreement between our two councils! 

Board Presidents: Berniece Collis, Shawnee and Diane Tipton, Nation’s Capital were joined by both Executive Directors, Maggie Witherbee and Jan Verhage. Also, both council’s very first board presidents from 1963 were present and able to again participate in yet another Girl Scout council consolidation! Marguerite Cyr, Hagerstown, MD, Shawnee Council’s first President, now 95 years young had earlier provided her inspiring words. Bobby Lerch, the first board president of Nation’s Capital, now 99 years young, joined the leadership group to make our merger official! 

The combined leadership team signed six certificates certifying the merger! Ceremonial signing pens – “One Great New Council” were created and used for this once-in-a-lifetime event! Cameras were flashing and the room was buzzing with excitement! TV cameras rolled and reporters talked to Girl Scouts to get their stories! 

Everyone felt the true sisterhood of that Girl Scout moment and we smiled with confidence thinking of the bright future for all girls now and far into the future. This is our Girl Scout story. 

 Girl Scouts of Shawnee Council, Inc.
153 McMillan Court • Martinsburg, West Virginia 25404
Phone: 304.263.8833 • Fax: 304.263.8836 • Email: 

This article is as it appeared on Shawnee Girl Scout Council website September 2009