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New administrative, meeting space planned for Girl Scouts' North Fork camp in Middleburg

JACKSONVILLE, FLA - MAY 14, 2014 - Monica Flynn Jacoby still remembers her days as a Girl Scout in New Jersey.

She loved being a Scout, loved displaying all the merit badges she earned on her uniform and loved the women who guided her troop.

As a philanthropist, the part-time Ponte Vedra Beach resident has paid it forward.

Jacoby’s $750,000 gift to the Girl Scouts of Gateway Council will fund an administrative and meeting space at the council’s North Fork Leadership Center in Middleburg. A groundbreaking ceremony took place Tuesday for the Monica Flynn Jacoby Center, which will be near the entrance of the 250-acre camp that borders the North Fork of Black Creek.

Although unable to attend the ceremony, Jacoby said in a written message that she made lasting friendships, experienced adventures and learned lessons in Scouting. But she never “fully appreciated” the women who served as Scout leaders, she wrote.

“Their dedication to our welfare, their commitment to giving us experiences to enlarge our world and their patience in dealing with us, especially during our teenage years — those virtues were amazing,” Jacoby wrote. “So today I am just passing it forward as a thank you to them and to all the wonderful women who dedicate themselves to our girls today. Our world needs strong women leaders, and the Scouting program fosters just that.”

The Jacoby Center will be the latest investment in the camp, which the council purchased in 2002 and is designed to provide outdoor environmental education and recreation such as canoeing and kayaking for girls in 16 North Florida counties.

The camp already features new cabins that sleep up to 136 people, program and activity centers, an aquatic center with junior-sized Olympic swimming pool and a ropes challenge course. Future plans include a dining hall, multi-purpose center and equestrian center.

In addition to Scouts, the camp also hosts corporate, school and community groups for workshops and retreats.

North Fork is a “hidden hem,” said County Commissioner Doug Conkey, who is also president of the Clay County Chamber of Commerce.

“It is a great opportunity to bring people into Clay County, to bring jobs, people buying homes,” he said. “It is a quality-of-life piece of property.”

U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, whose district includes the camp, said getting the new building under way was a “monumental moment” for the council. He told the four Girl Scouts who began the ground breaking — with youth-size shovels — that they can become the future leaders of the world.

“You guys are starting to learn principles that are going to carry you on in life ... and give you the ability to influence people,” he said.

Construction on the Jacoby Center is expected to begin Thursday and be complete in October.

Jacoby and her husband, retired advertising magnate Robert Jacoby, have been longtime benefactors for many community and cultural initiatives, including the Robert E. Jacoby Symphony Hall in Jacksonville.

Click here to learn more about the North Fork camp.

source Beth Reese Cravey - The Florida Times Union (904) 359-4109