Perry made volunteerism a career
Published 4:06 pm Monday, July 30, 2007
New commitments follow 30-year stint as troop leader
By EUGENE L. TINKLEPAUGH
Lenora Perry has learned a lot in 30 years.
But she’s also taught a lot, too. Tips like how to pitch a tent, or fry an egg with a tuna can are among lessons the Girl Scouts troop leader, until recently, has used to teach her troops.
After 30 years, Perry has decided to step down from the volunteer position as leader of local troop 729.
One of the things she’s not ready to consider is fully retiring. Even though she describes herself as a former stay-at-home mom, she’s always worked. While rearing three daughters, she held down part-time jobs. She alludes to life’s transitions. One for Perry was to go back to school once her children were grown. That decision led to her new career.
Following her education there, Perry worked at Beaufort County Community College for 10 years as a computer and keyboarding instructor.
It was a job that sort of fell in her lap like the troop leader post.
Now she is an IT support specialist with Beaufort County Schools.
At the community college, she taught everything from Windows to digital photography.
Upon her new title as an empty nester, Perry took three tech classes, then took some more and kept taking more until she earned enough credits to get her first degree. That’s when she got the job working at the college. While teaching, she earned a second degree.
Instead of toys — boats or vacation homes — the Perrys spent their empty nest egg on education.
Perry, now an IT specialist, hadn’t turned on a computer until 1992, she acknowledges.
After three years of computer classes, she was in there teaching it to other technophobes.
And that’s the mantra that has kept her with the Girl Scouts for three decades.
In 30 years, Girl Scouts has gone through some reform, Perry said, but the purpose of the organization has always been about character and growth, ideas close to her heart.
When Perry took on the role in 1976, the troop met every week for two hours.
Through the years, children have become more active in music or dance lessons and sports, which meant less time to devote to Scouts, according to Perry.
So meetings were trimmed back to once a month. Another difference among parents, Perry points out, is now just about all parents are working instead of the sole breadwinner common to households in the 1970s.
The troop of about eight scouts is currently looking for a leader to fill Perry’s shoes.
Perry acknowledged it is hard-work, but that it’s also fulfilling and rewarding.
Last month, she took the group of girls to Savannah, Ga., on a two-day trip to tour the home and birthplace of Girl Scouts founder Juliette Lowe.
It was memorable for Perry, too.
She received her 30-year volunteer pin in the garden of Lowe’s former home. Granddaughter Ashley Mooring presented Perry the pin.
Others attending the trip were Betty Faye Dail, Rebecca Dail, Rebecca Hudson, Kelsey Scherer, Davie Mooring and Jane Alligood.
The troop takes lots of local trips, Perry said, and have also ventured to Raleigh and Williamsburg, Va.
Becoming a troop leader “kind of just happened,” Perry explains, “like my degree. I got into it, was having a good time, and I wake up 30 years later still doing it. I felt like through the years I was making a difference. That’s what kept me.”
It also helped that her three daughters were involved in the troop at staggered times and when the youngest had gone through, then the granddaughters were coming up.
Perry was never a girl scout herself. She only filled a void when her daughter’s troop leader moved away.
Troop 729 completed service projects every year, Perry said, helping with nursing home projects, cancer drives, collecting blankets and collecting food.
Perry said one of the most rewarding projects for the girls was sending 32 cases of cookies (384 boxes) to the troops overseas, the troop’s service project this year. Each box of cookies contained a personal note from a Girl Scout or from a donating individual.
The troop is sponsored by Perry’s church, Washington’s First Christian Church. The church has sponsored the troop for 29 of the 30 years Perry has served as troop leader.
In addition to her work with the scouts, Perry also is involved in her church. She has for several years taken one week of her vacation to do mission work. She’s been to Honduras, Nicaragua and her latest mission trip was to New Orleans to help with the rebuilding after the city was devastated by Hurricane Katrina.
Though stepping down as troop leader will free up some time for Perry, she has no plans to retire.
Just not anytime soon, she redeclares.
Perry grew up between Washington and Bath. She and husband Dwain Perry met as children, started dating in high school and got married thereafter.