CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Billed as the only Girl Scout facility of its kind in the country, the Girl Scouts Black Diamond Council formally opened its new administration, store and urban camp building on Charleston's West Side Friday morning.
The 24,600 square-foot facility has been open for several weeks, but Friday's event allowed members of the media to tour the facility and also kicked off the public portion of the council's capital campaign to continue to raise funds for the facility.
"This is going to continue to be an incredible opportunity for our council and an incredible opportunity for our girls," said Beth Walker, the chairwoman of the council's board of directors. "It's going to change our program throughout."
What makes the facility especially unique is the "Girl Zone," described as an "urban campground." The building has the capacity to sleep 24 girl scouts at a time, with separate quarters for chaperones. There's also a multipurpose space, a kitchen with the capacity to serve two scout troops, a large lounge area and, of course, an outdoor firepit complete with stone seating.
"It's the first of its kind in the nation," said Princess Young, director of development for the Black Diamond Council.
Young said Girl Scout troops in the council region already plan overnight trips to Charleston to make use of the city's cultural and historical attractions.
In the past, the troops usually stayed at hotels in the city, which could sometimes prove to be difficult in terms of transportation and coordinating group events. The new Girl Scout facility thus allows an entire troop to stay together in one place, while allowing for some more traditional activities - like a campfire - at the same time.
"Charleston is the big city to a lot of our girls," Young said.
The Black Diamond Council serves about 15,000 Girl Scouts in a 61-county region that includes all of West Virginia except the Eastern Panhandle, nine counties in eastern Ohio, three counties in southwest Virginia and Garrett County, Md.
Every county in the council is in Appalachia.
Physically separate from the Girl Zone (though connected by an exterior walkway), the larger administration building houses the council's offices, meeting space available to rent by the public and a new Girl Scout store that's over twice the size of the old store on Hale Street.
Retail manager Kim LaCount, who oversees the store, said the new space allows more items to be displayed and is more organized and helpful for scouts.
"We were really looking for the 'wow' effect," she said.
Groundbreaking for the building was in February. Previously, the buildings served as a dealership for Charleston Lincoln Mercury, which was purchased by the Moses Automotive Group in 2011.
The project was financed by Summit Bank, designed by ZMM Architects & Engineers and built by Paramount Builders.
The council has raised $1.4 million so far, and has a goal of raising $6.2 million to help pay for the facility. Fundraising has taken place already, but new fundraising efforts will involve the public.
Future projects could involve a former auto body shop across Virginia Street, which the council also owns.
Young said it was important to note that other fundraisers that benefit Girl Scouts are not used to fund the new facility.
"Cookie sales have nothing to do with this building," she said with a laugh.
Overall, the new Girl Scout facility should help the organization grow and continue to provide for girls across the region.
"Our future has never been more promising," said Beth Casey, the council's chief executive officer. "This is the first time we've had a facility that's been girl-centered."