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Black Diamond Girl Scouts get new home

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Black Diamond Girl Scouts have a new center that mixes the great outdoors and the luxuries of home.

"It's the first time that we've actually had a facility that is girl-centered," said Black Diamond Council CEO Beth Casey. "Girls are going to be able to come in from all of our 61-county area and have a safe, enjoyable place to stay in Charleston."

The Black Diamond Council kicked off its capital campaign to fund the new 24,600-square-foot Girl Scouts and Volunteer Resource Center, located at 321 Virginia St. W., on Charleston's West Side.

Summit Bank provided initial funding for the project, which will serve roughly 15,000 Scouts from the Mountain State, Virginia, Maryland and Ohio.

Casey said Friday launched the largest and most important fundraising effort in the council's history. So far, $1.4 million has been raised toward the $6.2 million needed for the facility.

Beth Walker works as an attorney in Morgantown and serves as chairwoman of the council's board. She attributes the majority of her success in life to being a Girl Scout.

She stayed in the organization throughout her high school career.

"Girl Scouts didn't teach me what I should think but that I should have the courage of my convictions, whatever they may be," Walker said.

Walker recalls a troop meeting during junior high school where the girls passed around a college magazine featuring majors and programs to choose from.

"I just remember going through and everyone reading off -- 'Well I could be this or I could be an engineer or I could be a lawyer,'" Walker said. "There was just no limit to it. We knew we could make it happen."

Walker made her seventh-grade conviction a reality later in her professional life, when she became an attorney.

"This is going to continue to be an incredible opportunity for our council," Walker said.

The facility features rooms with free space, lodging rooms filled with bunk beds and a shower area, a Girl Zone with a flat-screen television and double kitchen, and an outside fire pit and green space. The facility also houses a gift shop.

"I don't know if you have hung around kids very much," Case said, "but they get a little rambunctious at times, and they need some space to run around and be."

The council's old location, at 210 Hale St. downtown, is a four-story building.

"There were a lot of space challenges and how we would use that space," Casey said.

The new facility is a vision of former council CEO Susan Thompson, Casey said. Thompson led the council for 22 years. Casey added that parking at the old facility was a nightmare for volunteers. Now they have their own parking lots.

Construction on the facility that once housed a used-car lot began in April, but the designing and preparation began long before construction, Casey said.

The center will host its first event for Girl Scouts on Saturday.

"Girls are coming in to prepare some of their business and sales techniques with a cookie event," Casey said.

The event prepares the troops for the annual cookie sale, which starts in January.

"We can do just about anything in this facility," Walker said. "And we're in control of this facility."

The center hosted its first guests last week, after a council staff meeting. Casey said out-of-town staffers were in and welcomed to stay in the new facility. Casey decided to join them for the night.

Her favorite part of the new place is the outside fire pit. Casey said it feels good to be out there.

The troops opinions' were considered while the facility was being designed.

"We found girls really wanted to cook over the fire," Casey said. "That fire is a big part of the Girl Scout experience, but they also wanted some of the comforts of home."

The various rooms have a small Girl Scout logo next to the doorway. Casey said names of donors who choose to fund aspects of the project will be displayed on the Girl Scout logos.

More than 10 companies and 20 individuals already have donated to the campaign effort.

For more information on how to join, volunteer or donate to the Girl Scouts of Black Diamond Council, call 1-800-756-7616 or visit the council's website, www.bdgsc.org.

Reach Caitlin Cook at caitlin.cook@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5113.


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