Blythe, CA, Saturday, March 3, 2012. As dawn broke on Saturday, March 3, San Gorgonio Council Rangers Brian Smith and Uwe Busch arrived at the Blythe Girl Scout House. They unloaded their truck and began setting up chairs and tables for a very special event: the grand reopening, ribbon cutting ceremony, and open house for a special place that had been vandalized, burned and nearly destroyed last fall.
By 7:30 a.m., Girl Scout leaders and Girl Scouts from Troops 240, 517 and 522--along with San Gorgonio staff members and Regional Chairwoman Beth Newton--had arrived and begun decorating tables, hanging banners and stocking a cookie booth, as well as setting up several different activities and displays in the backyard.
As guests began arriving at 9 a.m., each one was greeted warmly and welcomed by the volunteers and staff. Many of the visitors were already very familiar with their surroundings as they were members of the Blythe community that came together to rebuild the facility. One of the first arrivals was Craig Wiita, who rallied dozens of local citizens to support the renovation with labor, materials and monetary donations. Accompanying Craig was Raymond Hoover, a colleague from Wiita Mining and Exploration who devoted many hours to the Scout House reconstruction.
The grand reopening celebration, emceed by Linda Dominguez, director of membership and community development, began with the Girl Scout flag ceremony performed by Troop 517. The Girl Scout Promise followed with all scouts and honorary scouts raising three fingers in the Girl Scout Sign. Next, Cynthia Breunig, president and chief executive officer of Girl Scouts of San Gorgonio Council, took the podium to greet the assembled guests. Cynthia set aside her prepared remarks and spoke from the heart about how moved she was by the outpouring of support from the Blythe community and the warm, positive atmosphere created in the Blythe Girl Scout House. She then quickly placed the spotlight on the people responsible for the new House, calling Craig Wiita to come forward for special recognition.
Cynthia presented Craig with a plaque of appreciation for his instrumental role in bringing together the resources to rebuild the Scout House. She announced that he had been made a Lifetime Member of Girl Scouts and presented a gold and diamond pin signifying his new status. Then one of Blythe's Girl Scouts stepped forward to present him with a thank-you remembrance from the local troops. As Craig took the microphone to spirited applause, his eyes glistened with emotion. Craig spoke of how honored he was by the recognition and how important it was for the girls to have a safe, nurturing place to gather and do their scout activities.
Maurice Playford, executive director of Sheltering Wings, stepped up to make an announcement. Maurice is the man responsible for landscaping, including the donation and installation of a six-station irrigation system. He explained that the small Indian Redwood tree in the front yard will be named the Craig Wiita Tree and that a suitable plaque will be placed beside it. He compared the tree to the Girl Scout Movement in Blythe: it begins life young, small and somewhat fragile; but will grow large and strong over the years.
City Councilmen Wayne Cusick, Joseph DeConinck and Mike Evans were in attendance. Before moving to the ribbon-cutting ceremony, they offered remarks of encouragement to the girls and assured them that the City of Blythe and the community at large stood with them as they embarked on their Girl Scout journeys. Mike even pulled a $100 bill from his pocket as an on-the-spot donation to help with the work yet to be accomplished in the back yard of the Scout House.
To end the ceremony, Cynthia and Craig wielded a giant pair of scissors and declared the Blythe Girl Scout House open. As soon as the ribbon was cut, scores of guests and girls streamed through the front door to admire the new facility. Inside, they found a beautifully decorated large meeting room with a couch, chairs, tables, brightly painted storage cabinets and walls covered with Girl Scout decorations. In the middle of the room stood a table loaded with boxes of the full 2012 cookie flavor catalogue. Girl Scouts greeted everyone and offered cookies for sale.
Moving toward the backyard, visitors exited the Scout House through a sparkling new kitchen. Outside they found a spacious, walled yard with a brick barbeque grill and activities to do in each of the four corners. The face painting was particularly popular and many guests could be seen sporting cacti, hearts, or flowers on their cheeks, hands and arms. Making more backyard improvements, including more plants, grass and walking paths, is the next project on tap for Craig and his community-minded crew.
As the Open House Celebration wound down, departing guests commented on what a beautiful and inspiring morning it had been. Everyone knew that something special had happened in Blythe and that generations of girls would be the beneficiaries.
Girl Scouts of San Gorgonio builds girls of courage, confidence and character who help make the world a better place. To find out how you can get involved with Girl Scouts, call 1-800-400-GIRL (4475) or visit us online at the www.girlscoutssangorgonio.org.
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