Laura Philpot gave a go at Girl Scouts when she was in third grade, but she ultimately ended up quitting after a year because her Brownie Scout troop didn’t go camping. Years later, a chance encounter with a mom who was looking for someone to lead her daughters’ troop put Laura back on the Girl Scout path — one she still hasn’t gotten off of for over two decades.
Laura serves as a troop leader for Girl Scouts North Carolina Coastal Pines, as well as a product sales coordinator for her Chapel Hill, N.C. area, and has held a variety of different council and committee positions over the years. She currently leads her daughter in scouting, and when her son joined Boy Scouts, she began volunteering for them as well. Laura began her service as a merit badge counselor, and is now currently a scout master.
Describe your volunteer role with Girl Scouts.
For the past 20 years, I’ve been a troop leader and also an outdoor trainer for adults. I’m also primarily the product sales coordinator for our area. I do the fall product sales as well as the cookie sale coordination for 50 troops. I have had various other positions within the council and the area, including a national delegate for the council. I’ve been on the recognitions committee, the older girl program committee, and coordinator for camporees. I’m one of those volunteers they say doesn’t know how to say no, so when someone needs help, I’m usually helping out.
What about Girl Scouts made you want to come back every year?
Part of me wanting to be a scout myself. I had been in Brownies, but we didn’t go camping so I decided to do other things. A lot of it is the activities and the opportunities that are afforded to girls in particular — their chance to find their own voice, be a leader, and discover who they are through the program. … It’s been good to see the girls go from being handed a lot of the instruction and information, to them turning the tables on us as adults and being the ones who plan and lead and take charge of what’s going on. That’s been a really nice thing to see with the young women.
How did you get involved in Boy Scouts?
My son had joined Troop 39 here in Chapel Hill. When he was 11, I became a merit badge counselor. That really focuses on helping the scouts progress through each of their merit badges with the requirements, and being that person they can talk to and bounce ideas off of while they work through what’s required in order to achieve those badges. That’s what I did until 2019, when BSA decided they would enroll girls in the program. They always had a co-ed program called Adventure Crew, but this was throughout their entire Cub Scout and Boy Scout program. At first I was very reluctant … but when my daughter said she really wanted to join [my son] Jason’s troop, I couldn’t argue with my daughter. The troop is fantastic. … After about six months, they asked me to come on as an assistant scout master. Again, being the volunteer who doesn’t know how to say no, of course I said yes. It’s been 12 months now that I’ve actually been the scout master.
Is there any specific program or event you do that’s particularly special for you?
For the girls, there was a program we did called Scouting for the Cure. We worked with UNC hospitals in our cancer center and put on a program. We did it three years in a row where it was council wide and we hosted it here in Chapel Hill. It taught girls about breast cancer screening and how to do self breast exam checks. We created quilting squares for quilt projects, and made pillows for the mammogram office. We also were able to raise money for the hospital that way.
Troop 39 also works with UNC hospitals. They work with the children’s hospital. I’ve been involved for seven of those 13 years [they have been doing a program] called Touch a Truck, which is the third largest community annual event in Chapel Hill. It promotes local businesses as well as community awareness with public work vehicles, buses, SWAT teams, and police departments. It’s a chance for the community to come out and meet these folks, and get to see what their vehicles are all about. … It’s great exposure for community organizations as well as scouting. We partner with UNC Children’s, so we split all money raised between the hospital and the troop. Last year, we raised 32,000 dollars.
Are there any future partnerships, programs, or events that you are excited about?
Right now, it’s the cookie sales for Girl Scouts. It kicked off last Saturday and runs through mid March. … It’s wonderful that Girl Scouts has embraced technology. We have online sales as well as through Grubhub. It’s something that troops and Girl Scouts of all ages really get excited about. A lot of the younger ones really get into their first sale, the booth sales, and promoting with their social media campaigns. There’s a cookie finder app that anyone can access by putting in their zip code to find who is selling cookies and where they can purchase them.
What’s been the most rewarding part of your work?
I think it really is seeing kids try something new. Things that maybe they were hesitant or afraid of last year, but this year they decided they want to try it — whether it’s repelling down a rock face, or it’s learning a new skill. Lighting a match is something the younger kids are always looking forward to. And then just getting to the point where they’re self sufficient. I can sit in a chair and all of a sudden dinner is in front of me on camping trips. I say we’re going to pack up and they need to be ready by nine o’clock, and everybody has packed their gear and they’re ready to go. The older scouts are helping the younger scouts and leading by example. They’re working as a team. That always makes me smile.
Why do you think it’s important for others to give back?
Things you do maybe effect the community around you, but it does become contagious in a way that effects larger community, by setting an example and promoting that sense of service. I think it’s important to understand that you are part of something bigger. What you get, you need to give back tenfold. Contribute to your community.
What do you want people to learn from your story?
I have had some comments like, where do you find the time? How do you do all this? It’s not really finding the time, it’s just part of what I do. I want to do it, so I make the time. I work hard during the day with my job, and look forward to my hobby and work equally as hard with my hobby time. If I could do scouting full time, I would. I’m not ready to do that yet. This is the retirement job, for sure. It’s only as hard as you make it is another way to say it. You find the time for things you love, so you make the time to do these things.
Do you want to make a difference in your community like Laura? Find local volunteer opportunities.