It is Girl Scout cookie time! The time-honored tradition of buying Thin Mints, Samoas, Do-si-dos and more, while supporting Scouting in the community is here, but of course, like everything else over the past 11 months, the 2021 cookie season is looking a little different. With booths outside of local grocery stores and door-to-door sales not permitted this year, the Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles have developed a digital cookie program that will follow CDC, local and state guidelines to keep their “cookiepreneuers” and the community safe.
Girl Scouts began selling cookies in Muskogee, Oklahoma in 1917. These enterprising young ladies were looking for a way to fund all the projects that they hoped to complete and came up with the idea to sell cookies that were baked in their own kitchens. Thus, an American tradition was born. It wasn’t until the late 1930s that the treats were moved out of home kitchens and into commercial facilities. More than 100 years later, 2.5 million Girl Scouts sell an estimated 200 million boxes of cookies each year to eager fans looking to stock up on the nostalgic sweets. Here in Westchester and Playa del Rey, 55 active troops are hoping to reach their cookie sales goals over the next two months.
Local Co-Service Unit Managers, Cynthia Vazquez and Tricia McReynolds, are in their second year coordinating the efforts of these troops. They also are co-leaders of their own troop of Cadettes where both their daughters are members.
“I got involved in Scouts because I enjoy watching how the girls’ confidence grows,” said McReynolds. “Scouting teaches girls to be leaders which increases their self-confidence.”
Leadership has always been a foundation of Girl Scouts. Scouting unleashes the G.I.R.L.–go-getter, innovator, risk-taker, leader–in every participant, therefore preparing her for a lifetime of positive habits. According to Girl Scouts of America, it has been proven that girls who participate in Scouting thrive in areas like developing a strong sense of self, learning from setbacks and solving problems that impact their community.
Vazquez notes that she sees these benefits within her troop.
“Scouting opens girls up to new experiences,” said Vazquez. “These girls are able to do things and meet people that they may not ever get the chance to without Scouting. For example, our troop had the opportunity to meet the CEO of the Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles, Theresa Edy-Keine.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has made for some unique challenges for Girl Scouting, especially during cookie season, which is typically a troop’s busiest time of year. The inability to have in-person recruiting events has also caused a dip in membership.
Vazquez and McReynolds, like many troop leaders, have been working to keep their group engaged with regularly scheduled meetings held entirely on Zoom. Guest speakers are often invited to the meetings to help the girls continue to earn badges. They recently invited a UCLA law professor to speak to their troop about mediation as a portion of their “Finding Common Ground” badge and to learn about working together even when people have different thoughts, opinions and beliefs. Another troop welcomed a hospital chaplain to join them on Zoom who provided recommendations on items to put in care packages to support frontline workers.
For Leslie Hudson, who is a leader of a local Daisy troop, it’s more important than ever to figure out ways—with the help of her fellow moms–to provide fun activities for their kindergarteners and first-graders. The troop meets once a month online, and she knows that the girls look forward to this event to connect with each other.
“Since the girls are not in school and are missing their friends, this may be their only face-to-face interaction with their peers, so they really enjoy it,” said Hudson.
To make each online get-together more interactive, Hudson and troop moms make contactless deliveries to the girls’ homes before meetings, so they’ll have all the items they’ll need. Sometimes it’s a craft or supplies to complete a badge they will be working on.
She says her troop is looking forward to selling cookies and is already brainstorming about community service projects. In the past, Hudson’s troop has used their earnings to make hygiene kits for the homeless, which were distributed through the nonprofit, PATH.
All cookie sales are happening virtually this year and each scout has a unique link to their cookie order website for friends, family and community members to use.
To help get customers and work on their marketing and sales skills, the girls can personalize their digital storefronts with videos explaining how they’d like to help their community with the money raised, as well as their sales goals.
Once in the digital storefront, cookie fans can make their selection and decide whether they want the boxes shipped (there’s a four-box minimum) or hand-delivered to their porch (available only for local deliveries). Shoppers can also purchase cookies that will be donated directly to partner charities like the Bob Hope USO at LAX, The Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, Operation Gratitude, Blue Star Mothers or Goodwill of Southern California. Of course, you can also buy cookies and donate them yourself to your favorite local foodbank like Grass Roots Neighbors, LAX Food Pantry or the YMCA’s Community Pantry.
Cookies range from $5 to $6 per box. While cookies would normally be in hands and in cupboards across the city by now, due to the current conditions in L.A. County with respect to COVID restrictions, the delivery of cookies has been pushed back a month. Cookies are now scheduled to start being delivered to customers after February 21st.
Vazquez and McReynolds explain that each girl is essentially running their own entrepreneurial business during cookie sales. They learn many important lessons about financial literacy and then see the money that is raised used in a real-world way to support their projects and Scouting activities that range from camping and trips to see musicals to creating care packages for others and pizza parties.
During this unique cookie season, the support from the community means a lot to the girls who gain self-confidence through the Scouting program.
“It’s very different this year doing everything online, but I still hope to meet my goals,” said fourth grade Girl Scout Judy P. “It can be hard talking to people that I don’t know, but I practice and know how to answer when people ask what I have learned or what my favorite cookie is. I won’t really get the chance to do that this year, but hope [this] will help spread the word about our troops and the goals that the girls have set.”
Interested in buying Girl Scout Cookies from local troops? Check out our list of digital storefronts below:
Read what Girl Scouts love about scouting below:
Story by Lydia Smith. Photos by Zsuzsi Steiner.
Posted February 2021.