By Kim Palmer
CLEVELAND (Reuters) - Some Girl Scouts in northeastern Ohio are boycotting the group's annual cookie sale to protest an effort by regional leaders to close several rustic scout camps and replace them with modern facilities.
The new camps, called Premier Leadership Centers, would have all the latest amenities the old camps lacked, including indoor plumbing.
Mothers favoring more rustic quarters are up in arms and several troops are refusing to sell Thin Mints, Samoas, Trefoils and other cookies the Girl Scouts use to raise money each year.
"Half of the girls in our troop made the difficult decision to not sell the cookies this year," said Alisha Trammell, a Girl Scout troop leader in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.
"It was a tough decision. But we talked about it and what it means and what the consequences might be."
Lynn Richardson, one of the organizers of Trefoil Integrity, a group working to keep the existing camps open, insisted the cookie sale boycott was a last resort.
"We petitioned, we corrected their misinformation, we appealed to national, we held camp-ins, we worked through the democratic process. We told them every step of the way what would happen if they closed camps," she said.
Rebecca Shaffer, the director of marketing and communications for the Girl Scouts of North East Ohio, said the group would not know how many girls joined the boycott until the end of January, when the cookie sale ends.
"It saddens us that we have this disagreement over the camps in our area," she said . "We surveyed the girls a few years back and the number one response to our questions about what they wanted was more inside plumbing."
According to the Trefoil Integrity website, the Ohio Girl Scout Council receives the majority of its funding through the sale of the cookies and other products.
Individual troops keep between 60 to 63 cents on each $4 box of cookies they sell, the group said.
Those in support of the cookie boycott hope it will hit the Girl Scout administration where it hurts.
"The council management has forced the cookie boycott by turning a deaf ear," said Richardson, who supports the boycott, but adds that it is up to each individual Girl Scout to decide what to do.
"The girls boycotting are the ones who still have hopes that the board will change."
Trammell says her troop raised about $800 last year through the cookie sale and she realizes this year they will not have those same funds to use for activities.
"We've talked to the parents and they are very supportive of what the girls are doing," she said. "They know we might have to do less this year."
Girl Scouts of the USA, the national umbrella group, says the annual cookie sale generates $700 million nationally and is "the largest girl-led business in the country."
(Editing by Greg McCune and James Kelleher)