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Lodge ahead of schedule Hearthstone Haven could be available for Girl Scouts' use as early as February

CAMBRIA -- When the Girl Scouts of Niagara County decided they needed a new lodge behind their Cambria Road headquarters, they made the move in the most dramatic fashion possible.

They burned down the old lodge.

The Cambria Fire Department and several other volunteer companies used the opportunity for a training exercise when the old Hearthstone Haven Lodge was destroyed in a controlled burn Aug. 25.

Now a new Hearthstone Haven Lodge is under construction at Camp Windy Meadows, as the Girl Scouts' domain in the town is known.

Fran Isaacs, chief executive officer of the Girl Scouts of Niagara County, said the Scout Council is pleased that construction went well ahead of schedule during the mostly dry fall. The building may be ready for use as soon as February instead of the previous spring target.

"It's gone beautifully because the ground's been dry," Isaacs said in a recent interview. "The excavation and foundation work was easier than they thought it was going to be."

The new building was designed by Arbour Construction of Buffalo, which also is serving as general contractor on the project.

Work began in the third week of September on the 3,400-square-foot, one-story building, which will cost about $500,000.

Property director Kathy Dewey said no capital campaign was needed to raise the money. The Grigg-Lewis Foundation, a Lockport philanthropic group with a liking for bricks-and-mortar projects, gave the Girl Scouts $250,000, and the remainder was lined up in Albany through the efforts of State Sen. George D. Maziarz, R-Newfane, and Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte, D-Lewiston.

"Right now we're going to keep the same name unless we're inspired to do something else," Dewey said.

There is a possibility some rooms in the lodge may be named after donors.
The former lodge was built as a temporary structure in 1969 after another fire. That one wasn't intentional.

The facilities were no longer adequate, creating a need for the latest lodge.

The Scouts will use the new lodge for their own events, as well as lodging for visiting Scouts.

"We get travel groups that come from all over the country to see Niagara Falls. They use it as a hostel," Dewey said.

The old lodge was not ideal for such use because it had only one bathroom and one shower. Sanitary facilities have been substantially expanded in the new plans.

"Some people are excited because there's a men's room, which we didn't have before," Dewey said.

The building will have a large assembly room with a cathedral ceiling and a fireplace that will accommodate up to 99 people for meetings and gatherings.

The Girl Scouts aren't the only users. Dewey said sometimes the local Boy Scouts rent the lodge.

"It's a trade-off. They do a project for us and we let them use the building," Dewey said.

Camp Windy Meadows has been improved over the years by Boy Scouts, including some Eagle Scout projects, such as construction of cabins and renovation of a picnic shelter.

"We are all volunteer labor at our facility. We don't have any paid maintenance," Dewey said.

Isaacs said there are 1,822 Girl Scouts and Brownies in Niagara County, not counting North Tonawanda, which is part of the Buffalo and Erie County Council of Girl Scouts.

She said a merger is coming as soon as July 1, in which the Niagara County and Buffalo and Erie County Girl Scouts councils will join with the Genesee Valley and Southwestern New York councils in one large Western New York council.

Isaacs said her personal future with the organization is undetermined, but the eight full-time employees and one part-timer at the Cambria site will all have jobs.

"Our titles may be different as a regional council," Isaacs said. "We rely on regional people to help us organize."

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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