Scouts' U.S. plantation sale nets $2.2 million for cash-strapped group

CHARLESTON, South Carolina Fri Jul 26, 2013 5:37pm EDT

1 of 3. The manor house that is part of the former Richmond Plantation, a historic property of 152 acres near rural Cordesville, South Carolina is shown in this handout photo taken July 12, 2013, during a 'farewell' visit by former Girl Scouts.

Credit: Reuters/Cathy Miller/Handout via Reuters

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CHARLESTON, South Carolina (Reuters) - A historic Southern plantation in the United States sold for $2.2 million at auction Friday, giving some financial relief to the strapped local Girl Scout council that has owned and used it as a camp for girls for almost five decades.

The camp in South Carolina is one of dozens of Girl Scout camps in 28 states that have closed, been sold or are for sale as chapters across the United States face financial struggles, according to Save Our Scout Camps, a group fighting efforts to sell camps in Iowa and Illinois.

Friday's sale of Camp Low Country, about 35 miles from Charleston will let the Girl Scout council meet its financial obligations to Girl Scouts USA and keep its charter, said Loretta Graham, chief executive officer of Girl Scouts of Eastern South Carolina.

"We plan to keep Girl Scouting in South Carolina for 100 more years," she said.

Charleston businessman Michael Bennett, a hotel and resort developer and contractor with Bennett Hospitality and Bennett Hofford Construction Company, made the winning offer among about a dozen interested bidders in an auction on the plantation grounds.

Camp Low Country sits on 152 acres of the former Richmond Plantation, a sprawling 18th- and 19th-century rice plantation.

Shuttered since 2011 for budgetary reasons, the property includes an old-brick manor house, guest houses, stables, carriage houses and dog kennels built in 1927 by New Yorker George A. Ellis, a founder of E.F. Hutton and Co., and his wife, a chewing gum heiress.

The property was on the market for two years at an initial price of $7 million, but its value was appraised at $3.7 million before the local council announced the auction on July 1.

Camp Low Country, where scouts took part in activities ranging from horse riding to learning crafts, is just the latest to fall in the wake of a broad "realignment" by Girls Scouts USA, the national governing body of Girls Scouts councils.

The realignment that took full effect in 2009 consolidated local councils. It reduced their number by two-thirds, eliminated staff jobs and set new Girl Scout priorities for building leadership skills.

Girls Scouts has about 2.3 million youth and about 800,000 adult members nationwide, said Michelle Tompkins, spokeswoman for the New York-based Girl Scouts USA.

The organization is struggling with plummeting membership, a dearth of adult volunteers, declining cookie sales and a pension fund that is hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt.

In March, Congress introduced pension relief legislation for Girls Scouts USA and similar nonprofit organizations.

Critics fear Girl Scouts, which celebrated its 100th birthday in 2012, is abandoning its traditional mission of giving girls outdoor experiences. Opponents of the camp sales have sued local Girl Scout councils in several states.

The Girl Scouts' new leadership programs focus on science, technology, engineering and math, financial literacy, and even bully prevention.

(Editing by Karen Brooks and Andrew Hay)

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Comments (3)
BlueOkie wrote:
Can gay boys join the girl scouts?

Jul 26, 2013 10:30am EDT  --  Report as abuse
wolf2890 wrote:
I am both heartbroken and hopeful for the future of our former Girl Scout Plantation. Since Mr. Bennett has won the bidding, it may actually be possible for those of us who “grew up” there to revisit our beloved Manor house and the beautiful grounds. For our current council and all of our Scouts, lets hold our heads high and be proud to ‘be green’!! The financial boost should help us continue to move into the future!, Dr. Jan: previous camper,councilor, equestrienne director at the Plantation, and current scout!

Jul 26, 2013 9:37pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
LinChan wrote:
To answer BlueOkie’s question, according to Girl Scouts of the USA’s statments, as long as any sexually confused boy “lives as a girl” he is welcome to hide his true sex within GSUSA, change clothes, use bathrooms and sleep with little girls without parents being notified. So logicially, yes, if a boy is gay (wants to have sex with other boys) and declares his “gender choice” is female, he can join. Likewise, if a transgender boy-girl declares himself female, he can also choose his sexual orientation to be a lesbian with all his male genitalia and full access to unwitting girls up through the 12th Grade. And the Girl Scouts are befuddled as to why their membership has plummeted and parents are refusing to volunteer?

Jul 30, 2013 8:22pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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