DEXTER -- Its name may be changing, but members of Southeast Missouri's Cotton Boll Area Council Inc. say don't expect a change in the quality or delivery of services to its Girl Scouts.
As part of the Girl Scouts of USA's recent decision to realign its councils nationwide, the Cotton Boll Council headquartered in Dexter will join four other councils to make one new Girl Scout council.
"The idea of merging councils did not come from the grassroots, but from GSUSA" said Cindy Weber, executive director/CEO of Cotton Boll Area Council. "The reason GSUSA examined current jurisdictions is that a realignment of councils nationwide has not occurred for some 40 years. GSUSA thought it was time to look at the national configuration and make sure it was set for the next 20 or 30 years."
With that in mind, the national organization set out to determine how councils should be consolidated over the United States and what capacities were needed by councils, Weber said.
"What they found was that smaller, more rural councils were lacking some of those capacities," Weber said.
Demographers then organized new councils utilizing this list of required capacities.
"Our greatest concern is always service to our girls," Weber said. "As long as we can bring a good program with adequate staffing and without our girls losing their regional identification, then we as adults in Girl Scouting should be satisfied."
Cotton Boll serves 2,600 Girl Scouts in a nine-county area that includes Scott, New Madrid, Mississippi and Stoddard counties.
Joining Cotton Boll in the restructuring are four councils headquartered in Cape Girardeau, Springfield, Joplin and Jefferson City. This new region will create a potential 164,000 girl population in grades K-12.
The realignment process isn't even scheduled to begin until October 2007, and at that point, it will be a year-long process, Weber said. The new council, which hasn't been named, could be headquartered in Springfield, but even that has not yet been determined.
Weber said she doesn't anticipate an absence in local presence.
"What we want is for Girl Scouting to always be available for our girls," Weber said. "The change will be both high-tech and high-touch."
The council won't end up with just one office in Springfield; there will be regional offices so they are able to serve the rural girls, Weber said.
"In order to have the capacity to serve girls in the manner we want, we need access to better funding. Those larger cities have that base to draw from -- and that is part of the thought process that has gone into the realignment process," Weber said.
A lot still remains unknown, Weber said.
Two years ago Cotton Boll's headquarters moved from Sikeston to a new Service Center in Dexter. The building, which Weber thinks will still be used following the realignment, is utilized to house a staff of one part-time and eight full-time paid employees and acts as a council shop to serve membership. Its community room is used for meetings as well as trainings, program events, troop gatherings and even by other community groups.
"Human beings by nature resist change, but if I look at this with the thought of service in the future to girls, I think we are working with those girls' best interests in mind -- and with that, we have to be hopeful," Weber said.
One of the most exciting parts of the realignment process is that it will create more program opportunities for the girls, Weber said. The restructuring will offer opportunities utilizing Missouri State University, Southeast Missouri State University and University of Missouri-Columbia as well as rivers and lakes throughout the state.
"We hope the transition will be seamless and transparent for troop leaders and the girls," Weber said.
When Cotton Boll board members first learned about the realignment, they were nervous, said Libby Mobley, Cotton Boll Council's board chair and highest volunteer.
"Who likes change?" Mobley asked. "We were all really apprehensive."
But the more board members talked with people in other councils, the more enthusiastic they began to get, Mobley said.
"It's sinking in slowly, and now we're ready," Mobley said.
The Cotton Boll Council isn't alone in its change, Mobley pointed out. Councils all over the country are facing restructuring, she said.
"The worst thing is it won't still be named Cotton Boll," Mobley said about losing what has been the council's name since 1948.
"We don't want to lose the name -- but we will," Weber said.
Whatever the future holds, Cotton Boll Girl Scouts -- even with a new name -- will survive the change, Mobley and Weber said.
"Scouting is so strong in this part of the country that we'll make it work," Mobley said. "We'll be heard."