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Camp Avery Hand lowers flag for last time

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Another camp bites the dust.







Camp Avery Hand lowers flag for last time

By Lou Whitmire News Journal August 24, 2008 MANSFIELD, Ohio --


The U.S. flag was lowered for the last time at Camp Avery Hand as members of the Heart of Ohio Boy Scout Council officially closed the 200-acre camp.

The scenic camp on Orewiler Road is for sale; the asking price is $1.4 million.

The flag was lowered by five Scouts at 1 p.m., in front of the dining hall across from the Ohio Bird Sanctuary. A small crowd of Scouting volunteers and leaders in full uniform attended. Matt Smith, former Boy Scout Council president, played the bugle during the closing ceremony.


Smith camped at Avery Hand as a Boy Scout.

Boy Scout Council Executive Board President Brian White said an open house let people visit the camp one last time and reminisce with old friends.

"While this is certainly a day with sadness, it's also a day of remembrance," White said. "It's also a day of celebration of all the generations of Scouts who had the opportunity to enjoy this facility."

Until Saturday, the council operated two camps, Avery Hand and the Firelands Scout Reservation.


"This facility can't support Camp Avery Hand anymore, so we're moving it to our Firelands Scout Reservation near Wakeman," White said.

"What we're going to do is rename two camps at the reservation, Camp Avery Hand and Camp Wyandotte. We're transferring this camp up there so the tradition and heritage of Camp Avery Hand continues in its new home for future generations of Scouts."

The original Camp Avery Hand off Fleming Falls Road was purchased in 1927. Charles Ackerman donated the money in the name of his grandson.

In 1940, the Boy Scouts sold the camp and purchased 75 acres on Orewiler Road, then transferred the camp there.

White said 50 acres of the Orewiler Road camp will be sold to the bird sanctuary, which is raising money for the land.

The sale and closing of the camp has been controversial. Scout volunteers raised $1.2 million of the $4.2 million needed to convince the Heart of Ohio board to reconsider selling Avery Hand.


But Heart of Ohio Scout Executive Barry Norris said that money was needed for an endowment for council operations, and couldn't be earmarked for Avery Hand.

Norris earlier said, "This was always about the financial stability of the council, as opposed to preserving property. We never could afford two camps. We did not have enough utilization. We did not have enough revenue."

Gary L. Gibson, of Caledonia, attended the ceremony with one of his three sons. Cory, 16, a junior at River Valley High School, is working toward his Eagle Scout badge.

"My kids loved it here. It was great for the southern part of the Council," he said. "We came today because of the memories, the camping experiences."

Brian Kleshinski, a Scouting supporter, wrote in an email to the News Journal he was on staff at Camp Avery Hand as a teen, and he was an Eagle Scout.

"Scouting is and always was a grass-roots organization. If you walk on the grass too much, it will die. You must find the courage to do what's right and stop selling the Scout camps," he wrote.


Kleshinski shared some of the many messages he received from former Scouts.

Steve Oster, a former Eagle Scout, said he spent many summers at Avery Hand. "Both of my parents were very involved in Scouting. Mom was a den mother and a treasurer for a pack in Ontario for probably 25 years and my father was a Scoutmaster," Oster wrote. "All of their sons ... were proud Eagle Scouts.

"I often wonder if the people running the council ever thought this through or just saw it as a business deal. Regardless, that camp will permanently have a place in my heart and life," Oster wrote.


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Found this on the internet, so I can't attest to the accuracy:




An open letter to all adult scout volunteers and good citizens of the United States,



Scouting is both a touchstone and stepping stone for scouters both young and old. It touches

our lives in ways without measure that can only be appreciated and valued more as time goes on.


Scouting has been a part of my life for over forty years here in Mansfield, Ohio my hometown.

I have been a cub scout,boy scout, order of the arrow member, explorer scout and adult scout

leader. I earned the rank of Eagle Scout and two Catholic scouting awards while a boy scout

with Saint Peter's Troop 121 here in Mansfield. I also worked at Camp Avery Hand, our local

scout camp, as a staff member and taught camping, cooking and pioneering merit badges. After

college I returned to my hometown to start an Optometry practice and raise my two sons. As an

adult scout leader I helped start a new cub scout pack at the Discovery School and served as

their first cubmaster. Later I became scoutmaster of Saint Peter's Troop 121. I received

the Bronze Pelican Award given to Catholic adult scouters for service to the scouting program.


I retired from the Troop 121 committee this year after over 25 years. I had hoped to remain

active with the Stewards of Camp Avery Hand program. A group of 150 volunteers who donate time

and money to our beloved Camp Avery Hand. Or so I thought.....


The reality of todays world cannot be denied, less young boys are joining scouting when it's

principles and values are needed more now than ever. The Heart of Ohio Council of the Boy Scouts

of America like many councils across America have been facing economic problems. We are blessed

with two scout camps in our council which covers a nine county area in Central Ohio. Camp Avery

Hand near Mansfield and the Firelands Camp near Wakeman Ohio. The executive board of of our

council is considering closing Camp Avery Hand unless the local scouters and citizens of

Mansfield and the Richland County area can raise over 3 million dollars for endowment funds for

the Heart of Ohio Council.


In 1991 as scoutmaster I was invited to a board meeting, that is right, you have to be invited,

even as an active scoutmaster. At that point in time I expressed my concerns over the council's

management of money and possible cuts in programs. I asked questions but got no answers.

I was politely told the information was not available.


Now in 2007 precious little has changed. There was a recent meeting held of over 50 adult

scouters and community leaders here in Mansfield to discuss Camp Avery Hand. Two paid scout

executives and one board member from the council was sent to answer questions. I asked only

3 questions.


What does it cost to keep Camp Avery Hand open, lights on and buildings heated? No answer.

How much does the council have in endowment funds? No answer.

How much of the monies are invested in the stock market? No answer.


The volunteer scouters deserve better than this. I surfed the Web and found the answers.

Every non profit must file a Form 990 with the IRS. It is a non profits version of a 1040.

Not only did I find a 990 for the Heart of Ohio Council, with assets listed at over 7 million

dollars, but I also found a Heart of Ohio Council Trust at 600,000 dollars. Finally. A peek

inside the finances of our council. After reviewing 4 consecutive years of 990 forms, several

facts are already apparent.


#1 There are 4 milliom dollars in a restricted endowment and 2 million in unrestricted

endowment funds.

#2 There are large amounts of money invested in the stock market. Millions of dollars

at times.

#3 There is a 100,000 dollar loan from a board member to the council with 7% interest .

#4 200,000 dollars was withdrawn from the main account in 2004 and 200,000 dollars

showed up the next year in the "other" trust fund. This in a year we barely broke

even. Did we need to post a loss ?

#5 The council has spent close to 1 million dollars on a lease for it's office in

Ashland, Ohio. What do we have to show for this? ZERO TANGIBLE ASSETS.

#6 Salaries are at 50% of the 2 million dollar budget.

#7 ZERO of the 990 forms were filed on time.


The Heart of Ohio head scout executive Barry Norris, and his executive board members want us

to "trust" in their "business expertise" and hand over another 3 million dollars to their

endowment funds. Yes, I do believe the council wants to sell camp Avery Hand for "FINANCIAL"

reasons. They want a bigger stock portfolio. Endowment, endowment, endowment. Where is this

coming from? Check the National Boy Scouts of America website. Read how local councils have

been "encouraged" by the national council to create endowment funds for the "future" of scouting.

It boasts of over 2.2 billion dollars being held by local councils, not the national council.

How much property is a scout troop, or cub pack allowed to own by the national by-laws? ZERO.

Is it now the goal of scouting to own the largest endowment fund or investment portfolio?

I know. The "future of scouting". But what about todays scouts? What about todays programs?




Go to National BSA website and type in "ombudsman" in the search engine. SORRY NO MATCHES

FOR YOUR QUERY. The volunteer adult scouters have no ombudmans service available through the

local or national BSA. Colleges and large corporations make this service available to students

and employees to help settle disputes when they arise. We are left on our own to struggle with

TOP HEAVY, OVERPAID, INEFFECTIVE council boards and executives that like to think they are

business and investment experts. Their actions and balance sheets say otherwise.


This is far more then just about Camp Avery Hand to me. I believe this is a NATIONAL PROBLEM.

I call upon all adult scout leaders across the country to do three things. First, write your

local, state and federal representatives and asked for change. We need an ombudsman service

independent of local and national BSA control. Second, form a local review committee with an

adult scout leader that is a CPA or MBA to independently audit your local councils books. Demand

the books be open for independent inspection yearly. Insist they are done on time. Third, support

the camps, troops, and packs. Buy equipment for your local troop or pack. Sponser a scout for

summer camp. Join your local camps stewardship program or start one if it doesn't have one. We

can no longer afford the ineffective corporate mindset with it's TOP DOWN programming or funding.

Baden Powell, the founder of scouting, expressed his concerns about having "paid" scouters

in the Boy Scout movements early years. History has proven him right.


The giant Sequoia tree can stand tall and magestic for over two thousand years. It's true

strength and life flow from the lowest level of all. It's roots. We , the volunteer scouters,

are the roots. We are the strength and life giving source of the scouting movement.

We have a voice that needs to be heard.






Yours in scouting,


Brian Kleshinski OD










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I attended Avery Hand as a scout and it was a nice camp. My parents still live in the Lexington area and know some of the politics behind the sale. Locally it is believed that one of the council board members has a brother who is land developer who wants the land. Like most scout camps it is in rolling hills and scenic, soon to be a condo complex.


I don't know if it is true or not, but my parents and their friends are furious. I was unaware that the decision was actually final, until I called them this morning.


I guess that every camp needs an endowment now?????? Insane.


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Face, we're just cannon fodder. We have no more rights to answers about the operations of a council than a private in the army has to answers about the plans for the invasion.


As good as a concept as Boy Scouting is, National and the councils really only care about one thing, numbers and money. Okay, that's two things but they are closely related.


They wouldn't and don't care if a troop is running an Eagle mill and the boys can't tie a knot.


We need members so lets ease up on the req1uirements so we don't scare boys off.


Let's keep the parents involved so they'll keep their sons in the program even though the boys don't want to be there. Besides, that's extra registration money.


After decades of trumpeting about American made uniforms, let's quietly get them made in China so we can pocket a few extra dollars.


Once any enterprise gets large enough, the focus shifts from the mission to feathering the nest.


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Do any of you have a clue about what it takes to turn on the lights at a Scout Reservation these days?


Maintaining a dining hall is a tens of thousands of dollars a year expense. Around here, State and County health departments, when they change code, don't grandfather anymore. You do it, or you don't get a food service operations certificate.


Pools come under scrutiny of the health department; lakefronts under the scrutiny of Park Service, Forest Service or Corps of Engineers. If their inspector says change, you don't get to plan it in, you do it.


Have y'all costed non-BSA camp programs recently? Double or more the typical Scout Camp. Some of the difference comes from having an endowment available. It helps pay for the 44 weeks a year your camp is not in summer session.


Want to help reduce the need for endowments? Donate your skills and abilities to the Council when workdays come around. I know a mechanic; he gets paid a fair wage. He donates his Saturdays and Sundays in the camp garage working on reservation vehicles. He's been known to bring a truck back to town for extensive work, done at his shop in the evening.

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"Do any of you have a clue about what it takes to turn on the lights at a Scout Reservation these days?"


If Dr. Kleshinski is to be believed, he asked that question and was not answered.


Money, its a gas.

Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash.

(This message has been edited by Gold Winger)

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As far as point No. 7 in the Kleshinski letter - it's not uncommon, in my experience as a journalist, for nonprofits to get extensions for filing their Form 990s. It's not always a reflection of problems.


Should they be filed on time? Well, yeah - councils should ideally walk the talk. But it doesn't always happen that way with big organizations.

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We all understand the costs of running a scout camp, it ain't cheap. So using your logic we should close down all scout camps and allow the councils to be more fiscally sound, and while we are at it lets close down all the High Adventure Camps cuz they are way to expensive to run and maintain, and with the lawsuits against scouts starting fires or doing other damage in our parks so lets just cut out the outdoor segment of scouting all together. What kind of scouting program does that leave?


The truth of the matter is that most scout camps are not run by adequately trained personnel, one week at National Camp School does NOT make you a qualified camp manager. Most councils do a piss poor job in planning out capital and allocating resources to maintain and develop their camps properly. Why, because many scout camps are allowed to stand idle and rot most of the year, and then its a last minute surge to get it ready for the summer, cutting corners to get it in a barely operable state. Councils really aren't the best ones to be managing camps in the first place, it should be done by experts with a lot of experience. We all watched as the SE at my former council let our camp, for over 75 years, fall apart because he was advised to sell it to get out of debt, by the council VP of Finance, to developers instead of updating the facility. These guys advised all of us volunteers that they would be buying another camp, a bigger and better one, it never happened. Three years later the council was gone, absorbed into another.


So I guess the question becomes who should really own and run a scout camp?

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We put a LOT of hours into our camp. It seems we are forever there for This Good Turn or That Good Turn. The OA does numerous events there and all include some kind of good turn. I think I know the intricacies of that camps awful plumbing better than I do my own house. Now I dont mind, I love the place and my son calls it his second home. But when were trying to patch things along year after year it gets very frustrating and tiring. The camp is viewed as a major part of the Councils program and on the books DOES cover its expenses; but by golly do we volunteer for everything. Having a pro come in every now and then to maintain some of these systems would certainly be warranted and go so much easier on us having to keep patching things along continually. Our summer camp staff is not responsible or mature enough to keep things working and seemingly were rehabbing a fraternity house every fall. It does get old

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"Councils really aren't the best ones to be managing camps in the first place, it should be done by experts with a lot of experience."


Isn't that the job of the rangers?


I know that at the camp where my son's troop goes, the rangers are there year round doing routine maintenance and co-ordinating contractors as well as volunteers. Maybe that's why the showers work every year.

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The potential year-round market for summer camps has always boggled my mind.


While the economy's not great right now and businesses are cutting back, in good times, many BSA camps would be perfect for rustic retreats and corporate conferences - even meetings during the week. It might take some upgrades in the technology area (wi-fi in the dining hall?), but worth it. "Relax, rejuvenate, refocus" could be the slogan.


# # #


For many years in my council, there was a "resident camp director" who was both the year-round ranger (in charge of property management and maintenance) and the summer camp director. He did a pretty good job of keeping things running and getting them set up. But from what I gather, that's the exception to the rule.


He recently got promoted to a new job at council HQ supervising both camps. The new resident director (a friend and former co-worker) has more of a background in programming and recreation management. He also has the title of "Council Program Director" and coordinates some councilwide activities, does unit visits, etc. There's now a year-round ranger (non-resident) who doubles as the assistant camp director, in charge of food service and business operations, during summer camp.


Our other council camp has had a resident ranger for a long time, but he has no summer camp program or management duties.


# # #


Anyone know what the attendance numbers have been at Avery Hand, since that's the main reason the SE gave? Minutes from an Ohio county commissioners' meeting in 2004 suggest that it was host to 3,000 Scouts and 1,500 adults in 2003. With an 8-week session, that's 560+ people per week - not too shabby from where I stand.(This message has been edited by shortridge)

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I had the privilege to serve the campers of Camp Avery Hand as Camp Director during the 1997-2000 seasons. In the last two, I served as Council Camp Director managing one staff to serve both camps.


In 1998, our Council Program Director and Scout Executive took me for a walk into our COPE Woods on the afternoon following National Visitation. On that walk, we discussed a switch to make Camp Avery Hand (CAH) a Cub Scout World and Firelands Scout Reservation (FSR) the council Boy Scout camp. On paper, a very good idea. Each camp is sized perfectly for the proposed purposes. I recommended that they have Fireside Chats with the Scouters involved to get input. Rather, we had meetings to tell people what would be happening the following season. We learned at that meeting that we stood to lose nearly 100 campers if we did this. Almost all of those were from out of council and all were regulars at the camp. Scheduling was the issue as was the homey atmosphere of CAH.


That season, we went from a two camp/two staff council to a two camp/one staff council. It took a tremendous toll on staff and, as a result, on program. The final week of camp at CAH had between 45 and 60 campers per season.


Through all this, the camp was financially helped by a group of individuals who were called Stewards of Camp Avery Hand. The members of this group each contributed $100 annually to the camp via council. From our charter year to the last year, 2008, we had anywhere from 85 members to 150. At $100 a piece, there was a nice chunk of change. The members decided how the money would be spent based upon needs presented by the Ranger, the Camp Director, and the council leadership. Nothin went to waste, and all of it benefitted the camper. Additionally, the camp ranger was assisted by the Apple Corps, a small but mighty group of volunteers who refurbished cabins as well as rebuilding or building new one. They cleared trails, maintained sand volleyball pits, installed a beautiful grilling area for Parents' Night meals, built new tent platforms and helped with the simple task of mowing and building an addition to the dining hall. This camp had support.


I will be seen forever as a traitor for my next comment...I have long held that the best thing this council could have done when it was established was to set a sell by date and to have sold all three properties at the time. They needed to build one unifier for the council, a camp to serve all of their youth. Instead, they sold Camp Wyandot in 1998...that money is gone. Now they are selling Camp Avery Hand...I saw the asking price of 1.4 million....how long will that last? The only remaining camp is Firelands Scout Reservation. In doing this they have lost a lot more than the 100 or so campers from out of council. They have lost campers from half of their council.


The council has thrown a bone to leaders whose history is going or has gone to developers. The old front section of FSR where the dining hall and pool are...where Cub Scout Camp happens...will now be called Camp Avery Hand. The rear portion of FSR...where program areas and campsites are...will be called Camp Wyandot. Both of these camps will be on the property named Firelands Scout Reservation, forever reminding Scouts and Scouters in this council that the Firelands Area Council and its facilities are the survivors in the merger. The Firelands Reservation swallowed up two other camps to assimilate them into one. The traditions of the past are of the past.

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