By GWEN OREL
It may be snowing, but there are signs of spring:
Crocuses are blooming (under the snow). Irish eyes are smiling this week and will go on celebrating St. Patrick’s Day through April.
And a true harbinger of spring: green boxes have arrived. It’s Girl Scout cookie time.
Thin Mints, those slim delicious wafers of chocolate and mint that coaxingly dare you to eat just one, are so beloved they’ve inspired the Girl Scout cookie cocktail.
This spring, Girl Scout cookies turn 100. A troop in Oklahoma began selling them in 1917 to raise funds, according to the Girl Scouts Heart of New Jersey website, gshnj.org. According to that site, there are 1.9 million Girl Scouts and 800,000 adult volunteers “who believe girls can change the world.” The Girl Scouts were founded by Juliette Gordon “Daisy” Low in 1912.
Cookies come and cookies go – “Rah Rah Raisins” have been discontinued, to the extreme disappointment of some of the Brownies in Troop 20367. But the new cookie, Girl Scout S’Mores, modeled on the campfire treat of a sandwich cookie with chocolate and marshmallow, is a hit. (This writer can attest to that, as can the crumbs on her chair.)
All the cookies are kosher, and for the second year, the Girl Scouts offer a gluten-free cookie, the Toffee-tastic.
And then there are those irresistible Thin Mints.
“When people say Girl Scouts, they think cookies,” said Nikki Keggen, one of the troop’s co-leaders, along with Jessica Freeman and Stacy Dixson, at a meeting last month. Most of the troops meet once or twice a month.
The Montclair/Glen Ridge area has 63 Girl Scout troops of all ages, from the Daisies, who are in kindergarten and first grade, through Ambassadors, seniors in high school, for a total of 579 girls, according to Kelly McDonald, a Montclair troop leader and Service Unit/Council volunteer.
Much of the cookie selling is done by the younger girls.
But according to Diane Esty, communications specialist for GHSNJ, “As long as you’re a Girl Scout you can sell cookies.” Esty observed that 100 years is “a pretty long time to do something that works, and have a program that works.” Selling the cookies raises money for the troops, who usually dedicate a portion of the proceeds to charity. Girls can earn badges by selling cookies. “It’s really a small business,” Etsy explained.
GOING CRAZY WITH BOOTH SALES
Making change is the best thing about selling cookies to some of the Daisies of Troop 20591.
At a meeting at St. James Church last month, the girls jumped up and down at the thought of selling cookies, marched, crunched veggie straws, and talked about the fun of salesmanship.
The sales goal, said co-leaders Melissa Schrager and Jennifer Herman, was to sell 100 boxes, but by mid-February they’d already exceeded that goal. Those sales were done by pre-order, which is long over now, and the cookies have been delivered.
But don’t despair if you missed the cut-off for those Thin Mints. Girl Scouts are out every weekend at “Booth Sales,” selling boxes of cookies to hungry walk-ups. A website gives locations and times of sales [See Info, below].
Six-year old Daisy Olivia Crandell said she liked that “sometimes you get to give back change.”Her colleague Adele Herman said, “I don’t like giving away all the money. I like having lots of money.”
All nine girls in this Daisy troop had been Daisies the year before, and all said they intended to go on to be Brownies.
Schrager said that the girls had practiced selling to one another. “For a lot of them, this is the first time they use subtraction and addition skills from school.”
While Girl Scouts still go door to door, usually only around their neighborhood and to homes they know, both the Brownies and the Daisies who spoke to the Montclair Local said they especially loved doing the booth sales. Lily Marcus, an 8-year-old Brownie, said she loved booth sales “because we get to run around and go crazy and ask people to buy cookies, and that’s like the best part because we can get the money quicker.” When people say yes, Marcus said, the girls “dance around.” It’s fun to sell with friends, said Cheta Okaro, 9.
Co-leader Jessica Freeman said that the girls are “funny with merchandise. One set of girls will have a whole system set up, the next set of girls will redo the whole system – how many they put on top, how many below.” Co-leader Stacy Dixson observed: “The quieter ones come out of their shells, go up to the strangers, say that they’re with their troop, what they’re doing. It’s really quite nice to see them blossom.” Girl Scout sashes are optional at meetings, but are always worn at booth sales.
In addition to the camaraderie, booth sales offer unexpected dividends. Sometimes former Scouts come up to the girls and talk about their own experiences. Dixson said. Freeman said that one of the best results of a booth sale came from last year’s sales at Acme, when a little girl who had always wanted to be a Girl Scout came up to talk to them.
That little girl was Lily Schlow, and she is now a Brownie in Freeman’s troop. Schlow said has enjoyed making people “really happy by selling cookies.”
EAT A COOKIE, VOLUNTEER
But there are girls like Schlow who’d like to be a Scout but can’t, because there aren’t enough leaders. Esty stressed that “we can’t provide the Scout experience without volunteers.” While the leaders in the Daisy and Brownie troops were moms of girls in the troop, Esty said that single women are welcome, as well as dads. McDonaldsaid, “We could have double the number of Scouts if we had more volunteers.”
To find out more about volunteering, visit gshnj.org.
Of course, cookie selling is just a small part of being a Girl Scout. Audrey Ashbrook, 14, has been a Girl Scout since scond grade. Ashbrook said since everyone knows “it’s Girl Scout Cookie season.” Her troop, Troop 20516, the girls still have money left over from last year.
She’s working toward her Gold Award. Girl Scouts work on Bronze, Silver and Gold awards, she explained. For the Bronze Award, girls in her troop baked cookies to give to people at a blood drive. For the Silver Award, she and a few other girls planned an event at Van Vleck House & Gardens. The Gold Award is harder because it’s done individually.
Ashbrook said she is planning to teach younger girls at elementary schools about gardening without pesticides.
McDonald sent along the news that two local girls were just chosen as National Girl Delegates to the Girl Scouts’ National Council Session and Convention in the fall, a convention held every three years: Alexandra Bushue (Troop 20145, Glen Ridge) and Addie Holt (Troop 2044, Montclair) were selected after an application and interview process to represent Girl Scouts Heart of New Jersey, McDonald said in an email.
As for the cookies? Part of the proceeds goes to such causes as the Montclair Animal Shelter or the Human Needs Food Pantry. But all of the proceeds go to helping girls grow stronger.
An adult buying a box of cookies from a little girl is having fun, but making a serious transaction – with money, and with time.
Ayla Ozkuzey, a Brownie, said that she especially likes selling cookies at her mother’s office, not just because one lady always buys 10 to 20 boxes from her, but because “Every time I go there they always have conversation with me.”
GIRL SCOUT COOKIES BOOTH SALES
Booth sales are posted for Montclair and the area through April 8.
Visit tinyurl.com/hqwlbtt and enter your zip code to find locations.
For more information, visit gshnj.org/