Since mid-March, parents say leaders of Camp Fire Central Coast went radio silent. Then came evictions on the organization’s properties for unpaid utilities and lack of communication, and questions over what happens not only to the youth programs, but to the nonprofit’s reserve funding.
Camp Fire is a national organization that serves youth in educational and creative programs. Heather Muran, a parent and volunteer leader for the Central Coast chapter, said when the pandemic shutdowns occured in March, the board members left parents in the dark about what happens next.
“When COVID first started, all the staff was laid off," Muran said. "Leaders and members were not told staff was laid off, we had to hear from the staff [who] said ‘hey, we are not there anymore.’”
Muran said emails from parents sent to the ten board members were not returned, or had a brief statement saying the office was closed due to COVID-19.
But Muran said the parents found out eviction notices were given for bills not being paid on an office in Grover Beach and the group's camp building in Santa Maria. Parents reached out to the national Camp Fire organization for help.
“But national couldn’t really get involved because they don’t have jurisdiction over the local councils," Muran said. "It’s only the board members who have that authority.”
Muran and other parents hired a local attorney, Greg Connell, to sue the board members. Connell said the board abandoned their fiduciary duties, leaving paying members with no information. According to Connell, the board members ended up sending letters of resignation to the national chapter without appointing a new board. The national chapter has not yet responded to KCBX News.
Muran said without a new board, there are hundreds of thousands of dollars in assets and reserve funding in limbo.
“There is money sitting in an account right now that we can’t access," Muran said. "We’ve all been donating our own personal donations to pay bills, to pay storage and facilities because we can’t access bank accounts.”
Now that the board has officially resigned, Muran said parents are able to work with the national chapter to form a new board, and to access the accounts to get programs back up and running.
“That's our focus, we really want to bring Camp Fire back...and to support our youth during this most difficult time,” Muran said.
KCBX News has reached out to the former Camp Fire Central Coast board members, and will continue our reporting on this story in the coming days.