Local troops see merger, retirement

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Two Mississippi Girl Scouts councils are merging, and the leader of one is retiring after 38 years.

The Girl Scouts Council of Middle Mississippi, which serves Warren County and 23 others in the southwestern part of the state, is joining with the Gulf Pines council, which serves 21 counties in the southeastern region, to become the Girl Scouts of Greater Mississippi.

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Leaders are being sought for Warren County Girl Scouts troops. Call local Chairman Susan Athow at 601-634-0446.

The merger, along with the retirement of Twila Vantrease of Vicksburg, chief operating officer for the Middle Mississippi council, will take effect at midnight.

“After Wednesday, I plan to ride my bicycle through the (Vicksburg National) military park,” Vantrease said during an interview Monday. “I’ve had the pleasure of working with many talented volunteers and the opportunity to see the impact Girl Scouts has had on the lives of thousands of girls.”

Vantrease said she plans to volunteer at area agencies and make time for her three grandchildren who live in California.

The chief executive officer for the new council will be Karen Livingston-Wilson of Madison County. Whether Vantrease’s COO position will be filled is not known, but Bob Athow of Vicksburg, one of 20 board members on the new council, said, “This is an issue we’ll discuss with the CEO” in the near future.

The new council will serve more than 22,000 girls from 45 counties, including 14 troops from Vicksburg. It will form one large council across south Mississippi.

The Girl Scouts USA national board of directors decided in 2006 to re-align 312 councils across the country into 109 councils in three years. The devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 played a part in the Mississippi mergers, Vantrease said.

“They wanted the Mississippi councils to build their resources back up,” she said.

The only changes, Vantrease added, will take place in upper management.

Another reason for the merger is cost-effectiveness, said Athow, who is retired from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and has served two years on the Middle Mississippi council board.

“It’s a better way to raise funding,” he said.

No mergers are taking place in Boy Scouts.

Other area board members on the new council include Malissa Winfield of Vicksburg, an attorney and wife of Mayor Paul Winfield, and James Johnston of Port Gibson, who is Claiborne County’s administrator.

Vantrease, 59, began her work with the Girl Scouts when she was 22. Some of her best times, she said, were in the late-1990s with the Beyond Bars Troop 711, a group, funded by federal grants, for girls whose mothers were in jail.

“There were girls from four different counties, and all the girls I worked with were all appreciative, well-mannered gracious young ladies,” she said.

The troop no longer exists, Vantrease said, because of lack of leadership and money.


Contact Manivanh Chanprasith at mchan@vicksburgpost.com