HOPE — Megan Porter wrangles rescue horses by day and a small Girl Scout troop, too, but when it came to going before Hope’s Select Board with an unusual request, she was more than a bit anxious.

Not to worry; after good natured joking about a possible surreptitious exchange of Girl Scout cookies and advance notice of availability, Porter received the board’s unanimous nod to hold meetings of Hope Girl Scout Troop 1232 in the town’s firehouse — all seven girls.

The levity began just as Board Chair Sarah Ann Smith gave the floor to Porter. That is when board member Charles Weidman, himself a Hope volunteer firefighter, jokingly asked, “Would now be the appropriate time to ask for cookie bribes?”

Girl Scouts pose in front of their new meeting place. They are, from left, Phoebe Schroeder, Ellie Porter, Rebecca Colson, Esme Hancox, Ashlyn Brown, Payton Tremblay and Isla Hancox. Courtesy of Hillary Burgess

To which Smith added, with equally obvious mirth, “We don’t need bribes, but if you wanted to give us a heads-up when they are selling the Thin Mints an hour before everybody else gets them…I need a pipeline for Thin Mints and I haven’t been able to find anybody selling them for years.”

The injection of such fun over the famously popular annual cookie sale helped ease Porter’s mind as she was about to make her request that the Hope troop she co-leads be allowed to use the firehouse conference room for its Sunday meetings and bridging ceremonies — when Daisies become Brownies or Brownies become full-fledged Girl Scouts.

A few days later, she remarked, “It was not a hard sell; I think the Girl Scout cookie thing helped. I personally have never been to a Select Board meeting myself. I was a little bit nervous (but) they were not as intimidating as I thought.”

She also said she had reached out in advance and received departmental approval from Hope Fire Chief Clarence Keller.

So, plans were set for the Girl Scouts, leaders and parents to gather for their first firehouse meeting on Sunday, Sept. 25.

An indoor place to call home has been a long time coming for Troop 1232, which is in its fourth year and was established after Hope girls had been without a local troop for many years, according to Porter, 35, a transplant from Connecticut.

With COVID, the troop has bounced around for a few years from school rooms to garages and a home, and even met outdoors for a while.

The Hope Girl Scouts have a friendship circle. Courtesy of Hillary Burgess

Porter oversees the troop along with co-leader Hillary Burgess. Both have daughters in the troop. Most of the girls in the troop are Brownies. Six are fifth graders and one is a second grader.

“When we first formed the troop we had six girls and that’s actually the lowest number you can have to have a troop,” under Girl Scout rules, Porter explained. “We did gain one girl in the last year so we got up to seven. Then one moved all the way to Marshall Point, which is quite far from us, but she still comes to our meetings, a 40-minute drive.”

Initially in 2018, the troop met in the art room at Hope Elementary School. That lasted about a year and then COVID hit, and everything changed for leaders and scouts and parents.

“We were not able to meet in person for pretty much a whole year,” Porter said. “It was pretty hard.”

She added that because of the girls’ ages, Zoom meetings were not practical.

Then for a while they met outdoors wearing masks, but weather was always an issue.

“We did as much as we could to keep the girls involved. It was kind of a lost year (for the troop) as it was for everyone else, and that was a bit of a downer.”

Porter and her husband, Scott, a Hope volunteer firefighter, manage and live on the Broadview Farm on Route 235, home of the Horses with Hope equine rescue and rehabilitation operation.

About midway through 2021, things began to open up a bit even though masks were still being required in many places. The school’s rules were strict on such things and so Porter started holding the meetings first in her house and then in her garage.

Not the ideal situation, she concedes, and not something the Girl Scouts organization likes to see because of liability issues.

Indeed, she had to fill out paperwork and get special approval from the Maine scouting organization to use her own home.

She credited the Maine Girl Scouts organization with coming to town four years ago to gauge interest from girls and parents and to help get things started.

“They have been doing a lot of recruiting and trying to get new troops started because membership numbers are low,” Porter explained. “They were very helpful during the whole process.

Meanwhile, back at the Sept. 13 Select Board meeting, things wound up with Chair Smith and others giving Porter a pat on the back for her work with the Girl Scouts.

“I don’t know how you do it, but thank you,” Smith said.

“It’s a lot of fun, we enjoy every second of it,” Porter responded.

Smith also indicated she knows from experience what a challenge working with youngsters can be. She ended the discussion with the sort of humor with which it had begun, quipping, “Believe it or not, I was a den mother to Cub Scouts. Shoot me if I ever end up in a room with Cub Scouts again.”

“Please make sure to share our gratitude to the Town of Hope and the chief of the Fire Department, Clarence Keller, for allowing us to use the space,” Porter said. “All of the girls and parents are very thankful for this act of kindness.”