‘We’re raising the roof’ at Camp Woodlands

Courtesy Photo Marking the start of renovations at Camp Woodland are, from left, Deb Milostan; Donna Precord, committee chair; Judy Koronka, Girl Scouts of Michigan Shore to Shore recruitment and support manager; Brian Heldt, building contractor; and Cindy Ranshaw, fundraising committee member and Girl Scout leader.

Area Girl Scouts and supporters can rest easier now that Phase I of the Camp Woodlands renovation project is under way, but more fundraising will continue to complete Phase II and Phase III of the project.

Enough money has been raised to put a new roof over the camp’s concrete block building, which has never been reshingled since it was built in 1957, according to Cindy Ranshaw, longtime Girl Scout leader and fundraising committee member.

“It’s been pieced and patched, but it’s never been replaced,” Ranshaw said.

Since the fundraising push began in May 2017, the fundraising committee has raised a total of $71,000, which includes a $26,000 payment from the Girl Scouts Council, and a $25,000 grant from the Besser Foundation.

The remaining $20,000 has been raised through donations from individuals, businesses and local clubs such as the Kiwanis, Alpena Boosters Club, and the Optimist Club.

“We want those that have donated to know they are the ones who have made this possible,” Ranshaw said. “They are making this happen. It means more than they will probably ever know.”

In Phase I, in conjunction with the roof replacement, the bunkhouse roof is being elevated to give the required 36-inch clearance for the top bunks, Ranshaw said.

“We’re raising the roof,” Ranshaw said, explaining that when the beds were originally made, thin foam pads were used, but putting in thicker mattresses has made the top bunks unusable, because they have to have 36 inches clearance in order to be up to code.

“From the time the camp was built until now, everything has changed,” Ranshaw added.

In its prime, Camp Woodlands has provided outdoor adventures to about 100 Girl Scouts per month, or 1,200 per year, so in its 60 years of operation, roughly 70,000 girls have participated in the camp experience there, according to Ranshaw.

“It’s used for a lot more than just Girl Scouts,” she said. “We’ll be able to expand it a lot more if we can get it to be used functionally year-round again.”

Since the camp is in such disrepair, the Girl Scouts held a Pioneer Day Camp at the Sportsmans Club of Alpena this year, instead of an overnight camp at Camp Woodlands. About 30 girls in grades K-10 participated.

She said the Girl Scouts appreciated the generosity of the Sportsmans Club, “but it couldn’t be a sleepover, and we couldn’t make a fire.”

She explained that renovating the camp will allow for all the activities and experiences clubs using the camp should be able to have.

“Camp Woodlands is used for more than just honing outdoor skills,” Ranshaw said in a press release. “In addition to years of camping, hikes, cross country skiing, snow shoeing, and outdoor cooking, it has been used for games, songs, crafts, socializing, badge work, building leadership skills, leader training and even baking and cooking. … The possibilities are endless when you provide the inspiration.”

Because the camp is located on state land, it can’t be used during hunting season from Nov. 15-30, Ranshaw said, and because expenses are high with ineffecient windows and insulation, it is used minimally in colder months.

“This property can’t be sold because if it’s no longer a Girl Scout building, it goes back to the state, because it’s on state land,” Ranshaw noted, adding that “All of the maintained camps (in Michigan) are in the Grand Rapids area, but we desperately needed one up here.”

All three phases will total about $220,000, according to Ranshaw.

Phase I will take 8 weeks and cost about $70,000, Ranshaw said. Work on the roof, ceilings and eavestroughs began Aug. 16. The camp will be inaccessible while this work is going on.

Phase II, with a price tag of $80,000, will entail adding an American Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant handicap access entrance and handicap accessible restrooms, as well as showers.

“Camp has never had showers,” Ranshaw said. “And that’s caused people to shy away, from downstate.”

Phase III would cost another $70,000 and include adding energy-efficient windows, insulation, siding, an air-tight fireplace and updated kitchen facility.

“This will not be a fundraiser that continues for years for operational support,” Ranshaw said in a press release. “This is a one-time overall fundraising effort to complete all needed work and then local and council support will be provided for operation and maintenance.”

Ranshaw said all the price estimates are based on having to pay for labor, but that if skilled tradesman would like to help donate labor and materials, rather than money, that would help immensely as well.

“Right now everything is based on our proposed retail cost, so if we can knock any of that off and get it done sooner, all the better,” she said.

Materials currently needed include sand, gravel, cement, cabinets, countertops, a commercial freezer/refrigerator, a five-burner stove, new bathroom fixtures (regular and handicapped) new lighting, flooring, insulation and siding, new windows, new toilets and sinks, showers, boards for walls and ceiling finish, and a small utility garage for the donated lawnmower and other storage.

She added that an electrician has volunteered his time, and that they will be looking for plumbers and interior designers to help with upcoming phases of the project.

“We are overwhelmed with gratitude by the generosity of the people in the Alpena area toward Camp Woodlands,” Barbara Hill, CEO of Girl Scouts of Michigan Shore to Shore, said in a written statement. “The Girl Scouts and this camp have a rich history in outdoor adventure, and we look forward to supporting these initiatives and the Girl Scouts in this community.”

There are many ways to help in the fundraiser: Pledging funds in the “Rekindle The Spirit of Camp Woodlands” campaign; purchasing bricks with the donor’s name engraved for $100 each, or branches for $25, leaves for $10, and stones for $25 to be featured in an art piece at the camp; donating labor or supplies; or participating in upcoming events such as the Camp Woodlands Dinner Hoedown and Silent Auction from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Sept. 22 at the Alpena County Fairgrounds Merchant Building. Western attire is encouraged for this event. Dinner is $15 for adults, $10 for children ages 6 to 12, and free for children ages five and younger. Those who would like to attend the auction and dance without dinner can pay $5 at the door. Tickets can be purchased from any local GS volunteer and area businesses including Neiman’s Family Market.

The group will have T-shirts for sale closer to Christmas, and is looking into organizing a golf scramble benefit in the spring as well. The group is also creating a book, “Lessons From An Antique Girl Scout,” based on longtime Girl Scout Donna Precord (Ranshaw’s mom).

The book will touch on “the fun, the silly, the sad,” Ranshaw said, “the emotional things that helped her grow.”

The book is planned to be for sale by January 2019, Ranshaw said.

For more information or to donate, contact Ranshaw at 989-464-6022 or ranshawc@aol.com. Contract laborers can contact project manager Lisa West at lisa@westaccessible.com. Visit the Friends of Camp Woodlands Alpena Facebook page for more details. Checks can be mailed to GSMISTS (Girl Scouts of Michigan Shore to Shore), 1480 Wildcat Court, Alpena MI 49707.

Ranshaw, who has 50 years of scouting under her belt, noted the lifelong impact these programs have on the girls.

“We teach girls to become the leaders of the future,” she said. “We really do build courage, confidence and character to make the world a better place. … There’s so much more to Girl Scouts than just cookies, crafts and camping.

“We had one girl who wanted to learn how to fly, and now she’s a commercial pilot,” Ranshaw said. “… They just have to tell us what they want and we’ll help get them there.”

Darby Hinkley can be reached via email at dhinkley@thealpenanews.com, or by phone at 989-354-3111 ext. 324.