Girl Scouts suspend Green Bay troop leader behind vigils and memorial patch

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Girl Scout Troop 4029 on Green Bay's west side no longer has a leader.

Liz Steffel was permanently suspended from her role Monday by the Girl Scouts of the Northwestern Great Lakes Council.

Steffel worked with troop leaders in Green Bay to coordinate a vigil and fundraiser to help the Girl Scout families affected by tragedy in Chippewa Falls earlier this month.

Now, co-leaders of Troop 4029 think that may be why she was let go.

The vigil honored three Girl Scouts and a scout mother from Troop 3055 who were struck and killed by an out-of-control driver as they performed community service picking up trash on the side of a road at Lake Hallie. A fourth girl was critically injured.

Members of Troop 4029 say they're heartbroken by the loss of their beloved leader. Devastated at the news, some girls in Troop 4029 say they no longer want to be a Girl Scout if "Miss Liz" is gone.

"Obviously I'm not gonna be in it," Troop 4029 cadet Ruby Snyder told us.

"Liz is our rock for our troop. She organizes events. She sets things up. She has so many contacts through the city of Green Bay," co-troop leader Becky Gulcynski said.

Gulcynski says the troop wanted to show support for the tragedy near Chippewa Falls, and Steffel helped to organize raising thousands of dollars through donations and the design of a community service patch.

But Troop 4029 didn't know they would be punished for it.

"We decided to go ahead with the vigil and just be about supporting these girls, and maybe not necessarily a Girl Scout sanctioned event but it was still a vigil to support children who had passed away," Gulcynski said.

The troop reached out to the Girl Scout council to find out why Steffel was suspended.

"She said it was their policy to not discuss what happened in that meeting," co-troop leader Richard Schultz said. "So if I were to hazard a guess, I would say it was because of that vigil and because of the unsanctioned fundraiser that Liz primarily started."

Steffel hand-delivered cash donations directly to the affected families and did not give money raised to the Girl Scouts of the Northwestern Great Lakes Council.

The idea of the vigil spread like wildfire to troops in other parts of the country (see our report on November 5).

"The Girl Scouts council has taken it upon themselves to scapegoat and blame her as the one that started all of this, when it was just her providing a platform for others to speak," Gulcynski expressed.

In a statement, the council said it did not plan or lead any vigils but does support the troops' right to hold vigils how they see fit (you can read the complete statement at the end of the article).

Co-leaders of Troop 4029 say otherwise.

"They did not support us. And then with the donations, how we were trying to find a way to support the families directly to get the donations to them, the people who need it most. And again, their initial statement was, 'Donate to us,'" Schultz said.

"She gave the money to the families. Girl Scouts didn't like that, so they pushed her out the window," Ruby said.

The council says it will be finding placement solutions for Troop 4029.

"I think we'll see a huge loss of membership if Miss Liz is not our troop leader," Gulcynski said.

Girl Scouts of the Northwestern Great Lakes Statement on Green Bay Troop

As an organization, our policy is to not comment on an individual’s employment or volunteer status or to discuss why any individual has chosen to leave or has been separated from our organization. As always, Girl Scouts of the Northwestern Great Lakes leads with an adherence to the principles of the Girl Scout Promise and Law, including those of “honesty and fairness”, “responsibility for what we say and do,” and “respect for others.”

However, due to recent comments on social media pursued by the news media we feel compelled to address some general misconceptions. As an organization centered around volunteers to help us deliver our mission of building girls of courage, confidence and character who make the world a better place, we see new volunteers and departing volunteers with frequency. No matter the reason for no longer volunteering, our Council always seeks to find placement solutions for the girls who had been served by that troop. These solutions may include: placing girls in a nearby existing troop, working with parents and other volunteers to step into the troop leader roles or working to provide staff to temporarily lead a troop while we recruit parent volunteers to take over the responsibilities. We work hard to make sure every girl who wishes to be a part of the Girl Scout organization may do so. Troops are not disbanded by our Council.

Troop finances are troop managed bank accounts which are managed by troop leaders and co-leaders. When there is a change in troop leadership, volunteers are naturally removed from the bank account. Troop funds stay with each troop and if a troop is no longer in place, troop funds are allocated with each girl to their new troop.

In the aftermath of the Chippewa Falls tragedy we saw an enormous outpouring of support and generosity. Many communities and troops throughout our Council chose to honor Chippewa Valley Girl Scouts unique ways including service projects, candlelight vigils and cards and letters. Girl Scouts of the Northwestern Great Lakes supports each troop and organization as they honor the girls in whichever way they see fit and while were not involved in planning or leading them, certainly were and are supportive of their right to have them.

Several individuals started GoFundMe pages or “passed the hat” to collect funds for those impacted by the tragedy. As a non-profit organization we did not establish, manage or direct the use of any of these funds. These efforts are led by individuals who are free to make their own determinations on how these funds are used. At no point do we direct the use of these funds. If an individual chose to donate to our organization in honor of the impacted troop or girls, those funds are segregated to support our Council’s efforts in delivering the Girl Scout mission to girls in the Western Region of our Council, specifically the Chippewa Valley.



 
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