Nearly as old as Scouting itself, the Girl Scout Cookie Sale could be considered part of the fabric of our community. Who hasn’t eaten – or had the tremendous willpower to turn down -- a Girl Scout cookie at least once in their life?
For 96 years, Girls Scouts around the country have been knocking on neighbors’ doors, setting up tables in shopping centers and calling on friends and relatives to purchase a box or two of the branded baked treats that provide funds for local Girl Scout organizations.
In West Orange, the Girl Scout Cookie Sale is in full swing. Now until Feb. 15, Girl Scouts of all ages are taking orders for cookies to be delivered in mid-March. Once the pre-orders come in, “booth sales” begin cropping up all over town, allowing customers to purchase cookies on the spot. Then it all ends on April 21.
The Girl Scouts USA website provides everything you could possibly want to know about the cookie sale. For those who don’t have the time or inclination to browse the site, here are a few interesting facts and figures.
The first reported Girl Scout cookie sale was in 1917, when the Mistletoe Troop in Muskogee, Oklahoma, baked cookies and sold them in its high school cafeteria as a service project. In 1934, Girl Scouts of Greater Philadelphia became the first council to sell commercially baked cookies. Two years later, the national organization began the process to license the first commercial baker to produce cookies sold by Girl Scout councils nationwide.
Over the nearly 80 years of commercial baking, dozens of cookie varieties produced by many different bakers were sold under the Girl Scout name. Three cookies that have stood the test of time are Thin Mints, Shortbread (also known as Trefoils) and the Peanut Butter Sandwich cookies Do-Si-Dos.
This year, the cookies West Orange customers can choose from include the three standards as well as Tag-a-longs (a chocolate-covered peanut butter cookie that’s my personal favorite), Samoas (a caramel and coconut-covered cookie), Savannah Smiles (lemon-flavored cookies dusted with powdered sugar), Dulce de Leche (bite-sized cookies with caramel chips) and Thank U Berry Munch (cranberry and white fudge-chipped cookies). The cost this year holds steady at $4 a box.
My connection to Girl Scout Cookies goes back decades. With a mother as troop leader and cookie chairperson, I recall being a highly motivated seller. Every spring, dressed in my green Girl Scout uniform, beret and yellow bow tie, I’d be hawking cookies to Our Lady of Lourdes parishioners outside of church and knocking on neighbors’ doors. After years of selling, I knew “my customers,” and could almost predict what they would order and whom I could persuade to try the new cookie offering that year.
When my daughter became a Brownie, I couldn’t wait to walk the neighborhood with her in the pursuit of a new generation of cookie customers – even if she was a bit intimidated by the idea. Far from top seller in her troop that first year, she has honed her skills over time and become a real “cookie pro.”
That progress is very important. Because, you see, Girl Scout Cookies are about a lot more than making money. Like so much of the scouting experience, cookie selling helps girls learn new things, develop leadership and achieve success in life.
The five skills the cookie program teaches girls are: goal setting, decision-making, money management, people skills and business ethics.
Troops 20585 & 22855 at Gregory School take the skill-building opportunities of cookie sales very seriously. Troop Leader Terry Johns said she and her co-leaders start by getting the girls to focus on what they’d like to do with their profits from the sale. Then they help the girls develop selling techniques through role-play.
“To make it interesting, we throw in some ‘off situations’ and always talk about safety first and what they should do in the event of something that is not correct, like incorrect money, or if someone invites them into their house,” Johns explained. “As we’re acting out the roles, the girls try different things like saying, ‘No, I don't want cookies,’ or ‘Not interested at all.’ Their comeback is to ask for donations for the troops -- they always have an angle.”
The scouts enjoy going door to door as well as organizing booth sales. Johns said they’ve come up with many creative signs, posters and ideas to promote their sales and are always excited to hear how well each girl did.
“Since we started selling cookies in 2010, we have sold over 5,000 boxes,” she reported. “This year the girls are planning to go to Build-a-Bear Workshop. We usually play a game to guess how many boxes we’ll sell as a troop, and then the one who comes closest gets a small prize.”
If you’re approached by a Girl Scout, please consider buying cookies from her. You’ll be contributing to the growth and success of a young member of our West Orange community – and getting a tasty product. For those who’d like to order cookies but haven’t had a scout ask them, Rachelle Brown, West Orange Service Unit Director, can help you.
And when booth sales start in mid-March, please check back here, as I hope to post town locations where you can purchase even more cookies on the spot.
Clare Silvestri Krakoviak is leader of West Orange Girl Scout Troop 20723.