February is a special time for those of you with memories of Scouting or Guiding. February 22 marks the joint birthday of founders Lord Robert Baden-Powell and his wife Olave St Clair.
One person who is bound to remember and celebrate is Laura Jarvis. “The best parenting course I ever took was being a Scouter.” So says Laura Jarvis, aka “Scouter Laura,” of her volunteer involvement with Scouts Canada, but also with the 132nd Toronto Troop, which meets at Leaside Presbyterian Church. The Scout Promise starts with: “I promise to do my best. …” That certainly applies to Laura.
When her two now-adult sons were little, they first became involved as Beavers in a “Colony” at Northlea United Church. Her husband, Stephen, soon joined up as a Beaver leader. Years later, the church where the Beavers meet is now Leaside Presbyterian, but Stephen is still a Beaver leader.
Initially, Laura signed on to volunteer administratively with a group committee, but when she learned that Thunder Bay was to host an International Scouting Jamboree with 15,000 people on site, she saw that her job in the Ontario Public Service meshed in a way she found helpful. As she told them, “I speak three languages – English, Scouting and government, please can I help.”
After that experience, she decided she wanted a more active involvement with Scouting, and ended up at her preferred level, with youth in Grades 6, 7 and 8 and spent every Monday evening until 2017, along with John Masterson and the other Scouters of the 132nd. In addition to those weekly meetings, there were camping weekends every six weeks throughout the year. At one time, there were 36 youth and nine Scouters with the 132nd. It is heartening to see that former Scouts are now back as leaders, along with their own kids, but there is a waiting list for youth to join the 132nd, as there aren’t enough volunteer leaders to accept more.
Laura stressed that for these potential volunteer leaders, there is a lot of mentoring and training provided for anyone thinking of getting involved and “if you give a little, you get a lot back.” Being a leader within Scouts Canada at any age level – Beavers, Cubs, Scouts or Venturers – is open to men and women.
Laura has certainly given more than a little to scouting. In recent years, she was Base Camp Chief for World Jamboree 2019 in West Virginia for 10,000 participants, the admin and registrar for Canadian Scouts and Venturers attending the Kandersteg International Scout Centre in Switzerland in 2022, and was the Canadian contingent admin team lead for the memorable World Jamboree 2023 in South Korea, where extreme heat and an approaching typhoon caused many international guests to abandon camp. The 270 Canadians insisted on staying – sending messages home to parents: “Please don’t make us leave, this is so amazing.” Laura describes them as “an ad for Canadian youth with their positive attitude.”
As well, Laura, as part of the Scouts Canada National Leadership Team, was Deputy National Commissioner – Volunteer Services, working with four Chief/National Commissioners. Currently, she is the treasurer of the Ontario Incorporate Body and a Director of the Greater Toronto Scout Foundation. She is one organized woman, and as she says, “pretty well known for my binders.”
Justifiably, Laura has been recognized for her service – the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal in 2012 and the highest level of volunteer recognition in Scouts Canada, the Silver Wolf, in 2022.