Girl Scouts–Arizona Cactus-Pine Council (GSACPC) is pleased to announce the completion of The Bob & Renee Parsons Leadership Center for Girls & Women at Camp South Mountain, an $18 million year-round urban program center with camp appeal, and fully ADA accessible. The center, which is located on 14.5 acres in the South Mountain community at 1611 E. Dobbins Road in Phoenix, increases the local council’s capacity to serve more girls with relevant programming, from aquatics to STEM, all year long.
“Our decision to transform our almost 70-year-old camp property in South Mountain into a leadership center emerged from our desire to expand our capacity to serve more girls, especially underserved populations, and better serve our existing members, of whom 85 percent live in the metro-Phoenix area,” said Tamara Woodbury, CEO of GSACPC. “This is extremely important to our mission, as three in four girls who participate in Girl Scouts say they became a leader in other parts of their lives because of GirlScouting.”
The Parsons Leadership Center offers spaces for large and small meetings and trainings, tent and cabin camping, a demonstration kitchen and kitchen garden, two pools, a Girl Scout museum and shop, staff offices, a playing field and archery range, campfire circle, and labyrinths. Adult leaders and volunteers will also benefit from the leadership and skill-building training offered at the center, and the local council sees it helping to facilitate partnerships with surrounding community groups, local organizations and schools.
“We are grateful for the many donors who have invested in this project to date, particularly The Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation whose support has been instrumental in making this project a reality. Their $5 million donation – in fact – is the largest in the 105-year history of Girl Scouts of the USA,” said Christina Spicer, Senior Associate of Fund Development at GSACPC.
Other notable gifts include those from The Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust, The Kemper and Ethel Marley Foundation, and the Girl Scouts themselves, who raised over $1 million through their cookie sales. The Emerald Foundation provided the first gift to ensure the campus would be ADA accessible.
“Bob and I are passionate about giving support to organizations making a lasting difference in the community, and that’s what the Girls Scouts are doing here,” said businesswoman and philanthropist, Renee Parsons. “The lessons these young girls are learning will empower them to grow into confident women and future leaders.”
Marlene Imirzian, the lead architect and founder of Marlene Imirzian & Associates, was a Girl Scout in her youth and understands the impact Girl Scouting has on girls’ lives.
“The leadership center is designed to honor the natural beauty of the Sonoran Desert and remains true to the Girl Scout values of protecting the environment and using resources wisely. Raised walkways protect the fragile desert floor and allow the water from South Mountain to flow through the natural arroyos unimpeded and into an underground water management system,” said Imirzian. “The v-shaped roofs of the cabins, which are raised on caissons, direct rain water to flow into basins beneath them and provide water for surrounding plants.”
According to Imirzian, recycled building materials, the conservation of the native trees and plants on the property, xeriscaping, low water use fixtures, along with abundant natural lighting from windows and skylights add to the sustainable design of the project.
“These same design features also promote a sustainable community, fostering connections, integration and engagement,” said Imirzian, noting that LEED certification is being pursued.
The Weitz Company served as the construction partner on the project and supported GSACPC in other ways. “Prior to construction, Weitz hosted two golf tournaments raising nearly $50,000 for the building fund,” said Weitz executive vice president and general manager Chris Harrison. “Once construction began, we continued to support their fundraising efforts including on-site tours throughout construction with current and potential donors to see first-hand the impact of their investment.”
“The Parsons Leadership Center will have a lasting positive impact on Girl Scouts and the greater community for today and future generations.” adds Harrison.
The Parsons Leadership Center at a glance:
The original five acres were a gift from Maie Bartlett Heard in 1948. Over time, Girl Scouts purchased surrounding property to make it into the 14.5 acre site of today. In the early 1950s, the property was given the name Camp Sombrero.
This camp has been the site of primitive camps and day camps, trainings, festivals and fairs. Thousands of girls have made lifetime memories and friendships on the grounds of Camp Sombrero. In fact, many women – now leaders in Arizona – trace the start of their leadership journey to the time they spent here. One notable guest to visit was Rosa Parks, who came to promote a “Right to Read” literacy program in 1992 and addressed 500 children and adults about the importance of literacy and the freedom to learn.
The groundbreaking for this new center was held on March 12, 2015, the Girl Scouts’ 103rd birthday.
Girls and adults will enjoy camping year-around in 15 new temperature-controlled cabins that sleep up to ten people. The cabins are identical, but turned in different directions to replicate the jagged landscape of the mountain. Each cluster of three cabins has a spacious exterior deck for outdoor activities. Areas for tent camping, with picnic tables, are also on site.
This summer, The Parsons Leadership Center will host 71 camp sessions and offer both day and residential options. Girls will enjoy swimming, environmental education, archery, STEM, along with traditional camp activities.
At the very beginning of this project, GSACPC gathered input from over 900 girl and adult members on what they would like to see in a renovated the camp.
The vision that emerged was an urban program center, with camp appeal, built for girls but suitable for adult use. They wanted comfortable overnight facilities and space for large gatherings. They asked that the pool, archery range and play field remain. Importantly, they wanted the desert to be celebrated and the buildings to be environmentally efficient and sustainable. Or as the girls said it, “Green!”
“We welcome the continued support of the community to help us raise the remaining $3.3 million on this ambitious project to further enhance our capacity to serve women and girls in our community,” said Spicer.
About Girl Scouts
The Girl Scouts—Arizona Cactus-Pine Council has been serving girls since 1936. Today we serve 22,000 girls, in grades K-12, with the help of 10,000 adult volunteers. We serve girls throughout central and northern Arizona and in the Navajo Nation and Hopi Lands. We serve girls across every economic class, ethnic group and religion and work to ensure no girl is denied a GirlScout experience due to financial constraints.