As of this morning, 261 people have signed a petition begging the city not to allow Teen/Life Challenge of Dallas to set up camp next to the Girl Scouts' longtime home at Camp Whispering Cedars. According to Allen Gwinn, this week the city's Plan Commission is set to take up this week the request of Teen/Life Challenge -- the local chapter of a 50-year-old faith-based initiative intent on helping drug addicts and alcoholics -- which wants to buy and rezone the former Camp El-Har to accomodate up to 100 men needing its straighten-up services.
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Over the years, Teen Challenge has had the support of presidents (Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush) and religious leaders (Billy and Ruth Graham), and in its letter of protest the Girl Scouts of Tejas Council acknowledges "the mission of this organization is a worthy one." Nonetheless, it's concerned about the safety of the girls -- because, as Gwinn points out, nine years ago the organization was sued by an 18-year-old man who claimed he was sexually abused when he was 16 by a worker at the ranch, which was then located in Winnsboro. (The case was eventually settled.) As the petition reads, "We view this as a direct threat to the safety and security of our girls and the financial well-being of our council." The hearing will take place Thursday at 1:30 p.m. at City Hall; get yer tickets now. --Robert Wilonsky