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Scout leader looks on legacy of leadership

By By DAN PARSONS, Staff Writer
Sylvia Gilbert was never a Girl Scout, but for 29 years she has been making scouting a unique experience for girls in eastern North Carolina.
Gilbert’s career as a scout leader began when her daughter, Lori, wanted to join as a Brownie. Almost three decades later, she is the resident ranger at Camp Hardee in Blounts Creek where countless girls have stayed during her 10-year tenure.
Before coming to Camp Hardee in 1999, Gilbert led troops at every level of Girl Scouting from Brownies to Cadets. She also led a Mariner troop — one unique to eastern North Carolina that focused on water-related activities.
Gilbert and her Mariner Scouts met once a month at Camp Hardee in Blounts Creek to sail, canoe, take water samples and in general explore the coastal habitat of the area.
She took that troop — 42 parents and Girl Scouts in all — on a 10-day trip to Florida in 1988. It took two years to plan and raise money for the excursion.
On the return trip, they made a stop in Savannah, Ga., to visit the home of Girl Scouts founder Juliette Gordon Low. There Gilbert and her scouts held a ceremony in honor of Lou Fisher, the troop’s former leader who resigned after being diagnosed with bone cancer.
In 1998, Gilbert became the first Girl Scout outreach specialist in Pitt County. In that role, she brought scouting to underprivileged children who could not otherwise afford to participate.
One weekend, she brought 60 of her outreach scouts to Camp Hardee for a weekend of outdoor adventure. The experience solidified in her mind that she truly was making a difference in children’s lives, she said.
Gilbert had been working in outreach for only three months when the ranger, or overseer, at Camp Hardee quit. Familiar from the camp from weekend caretaking, Gilbert took up the post temporarily. A few months later she applied for a permanent position and was hired.
In nearly 10 years as a resident ranger — Gilbert lives with her husband, Jimmy, at the camp — Gilbert said the camp has been “brought into the 21st century.”
During her tenure four new cabins have been built, making room for up to 82 campers at once. The other 10 existing cabins were all remodeled and upgraded to include air conditioning in all and heat in most. A boat ramp and a 150-foot pier have been installed giving visiting Girl Scouts access to the Pamlico River.
Gilbert is proud of the changes and expansions to Camp Hardee she has overseen, mostly because of the joy she knows it brings the girls who visit the camp, she said. Contemplating a career change in the near future, she said it will always bring her joy to have “made a difference in a child’s life.”