"It's always a fun time," says Kill Devil Hills Community Policing Officer Lora Gilreath of the upcoming Girl Scout Overnight event. Lasting from 5 p.m. Saturday to 10 a.m. Sunday, the program includes a pizza party and morning donuts. In between are activities and instruction that qualify the scouts for a badge and equip them with first-hand experience in real life situations.
"It's a long night," Gilreath observes. And, whether the girls are ready for bed or not, Gilreath reaches a point where she announces: "I'm going to sleep, girls. Don't wake me up."
Last year's event focused on criminal investigations, with the participants earning a detective badge. “We covered things like fingerprinting, observations and a blood spatter activity," Gilreath explains, all of which culminated in a final day "mock crime scene where they had to figure out who did it and how it happened."
Gilreath says about 50 girls participated last year, with around 15 adult volunteers. Similar numbers are expected this year.
This year’s event, slated for March 30 and 31 in the KDH Commissioners Room, will focus on government and civic discourse. "The mayor and the town manager are going to come and talk about things like finding common ground, working through differences, agreeing to disagree while being civil and communicating properly,” says Gilreath.
The Government and Citizenship Overnight Adventure agenda includes a "mock planning board meeting," with a debate involving the scouts in various assigned roles. Scouts will earn an Inside Government Badge and Common Ground badge.
Gilreath says she especially values opportunities to educate "younger females that there are things they can do that may usually be a male-dominant role, but if you have confidence and understand how to carry yourself, you can be successful in them."
Having joined the town’s police department in 2017, Gilreath focuses on its outreach to the broader community. Recent events she planned and organized include the department's annual National Night Out in August, along with bicycle safety Bike Rodeos held at local elementary schools. Coming up are the annual Trash Attack event, a blood drive and another Bike Rodeo to be held in the Publix parking lot.
"My husband tells me I am an 'organizer,'" Gilreath confesses. "And that is my thing."
For his part, Kill Devil Hills Police Chief Gary Britt describes her as one of those officers who “continually go above and beyond the call of duty” and "a tremendous asset to the police department and our community."
Along with a resume that includes work as a park ranger at Pettigrew State Park in Creswell, and service with the Southern Shores and Nags Head Police Departments, the Beulaville, NC native has a B.A. in Political Science from UNC Chapel Hill and a Master's in Public Administration from UNC Pembroke.
She says her primary goal as Community Policing Officer is to build relationships with the community and help people "understand that they can come to us and ask us questions...They don't have to be intimidated or scared of law enforcement. We all have jobs to do and our job sometimes is to enforce a law that people aren't happy with. But that doesn't mean you can't approach us if you need help."
Gilreath is also responsible for writing Watch for Me NC grants and grants for funding training for DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) officers in Dare County. She also is the educator for the two-week training required to become a DARE Officer. DARE officers lead classes for children from kindergarten through 12th grade designed to educate students about the skills needed to avoid involvement in drugs, gangs and violence.
In addition, she is the community planner for the Outer Banks Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Coalition and also works in partnership with the Outer Banks International Student Outreach Program (ISOP) and the Juvenile Crime Prevention Council. She will be a speaker at this year's Governor's Highway Safety Program conference in Raleigh.
When Gilreath isn’t working, you may find her on the athletic field. She and her husband Jonathan, an officer with the Duck Police Department, work with an array of youth baseball, softball, tee-ball, basketball and flag football teams. Gilreath says Jonathan takes the lead coaching role and she mainly assists.
"My husband and I stay pretty busy," she adds. "I think it's important to give back to your community. The community does a lot for me and my family and I think it's true that 'it takes a village.' So this is one way my husband and I feel like we can give back in a positive way."
"Sports create a good opportunity for learning about teamwork, responsibility and leadership,” she explains. “So we hope the kids are having fun, but are able to also learn some life lessons along with that."
Drawing a distinction between her work with the KDH Police Department and her personal activities in the community, Gilreath says she sees the two sides of her life as "similar but also separate." She does her job "to the best of my ability,” Gilreath states. “But my passion is my community."