Local troops celebrate 100 years of Girl Scouting with new cookie

BROOKVILLE — Look out Thin Mints, a new cookie is vying for the spotlight.

In celebration of their organization’s 100th anniversary, Girl Scouts across America are going door-to-door today, and every day for the next couple of weeks, trying to sell a new cookie: Savannah Smiles.

The new lemon-wedge cookie, described as “cool and crisp, with just the right amount of lemon chips to deliver tiny bursts of flavor,” was introduced to pay homage to the 100th anniversary of Girl Scouting.

“And if you turn them just the right way, they are kind of in the shape of a smile,” said Cori Begg, spokesperson for Girls Scouts of Western Pennsylvania. “They’re really delicious.”

Although Thin Mints are still the most popular choice among Americans, Scouts are hoping Savannah Smiles will make an impression this year.

Named after the birthplace of the organization’s founder, Juliette Gordon Low, as well as the famous Brownie smile song, Savannah Smiles have been added to the list of the eight cookie offerings, including the world-famous Thin Mint, the Trefoil, Samoas and Tagalongs.

“The cookie is a way to ensure that our customers will celebrate this year along with us,” Begg said. “For an organization to reach a milestone such as this, it can become an internal celebration, but
we want to bring the external audience in to celebrate as well.”

According to girlscouts.org, Low gathered 18 girls together for the organization’s first meeting March 12, 1912, in Savannah, Ga.

From the original 18 girls, Girl Scouting has grown to 3.7 million members and has influenced more than 50 million girls, women and men who have belonged to it.

Because of this spectacular feat, the 100th anniversary will be celebrated throughout the entire year.

One of the most effective ways to celebrate is through the annual cookie sale; however, something may be missed along the way.

“While you may be getting a fantastic, tasty treat, there’s something beyond the delicious cookie, and that is that it’s the No. 1 girl-led business in the country,” Begg said.

Girl Scouts in Jefferson County sold 41,204 boxes of cookies during the 2011 annual sale.

Council-wide, members of Girl Scouts Western Pennsylvania sold more than 3.1 million boxes of cookies last year, with the national total soaring to 200 million.

But what is the point of selling boxes upon boxes upon boxes of cookies?
“Girl Scouting really allows girls to determine how they want to spend their proceeds,” Begg said. “It comes down to decision making. They set a goal and use the cookie program to reach that goal.”

The beginning of the famous cookie sale can be traced back to its earliest roots in 1917.

Five years after Low started the organization, the Mistletoe Troop in Muskogee, Okla., baked cookies and sold them in its high school cafeteria in December 1917.

Cookie sales began to gain momentum in the 1930s, and by 1956, Girl Scouts sold four basic types of cookies: A vanilla-based filled cookie, a chocolate-based filled one, shortbread and a chocolate mint.

“The cookie sale has a lot of potential to teach them a lot of things,” said Kristen Drake, who leads Girl Scout Troop 20288 of Brookville.
“They’re especially learning assertiveness by going out and meeting new people.”

This year, the price of a box of cookies increased by 50 cents, raising the cost of each box to $4.

But because of the price increase, the girls will receive 70 cents per box, which is an increase of 10 cents from last year.

“This is to ensure that our troops are directly benefitting from the sale,” Begg said.

Girl Scouts in Jefferson County are still deciding how to use the proceeds they will receive from the cookie sale.

Some troops are planning to attend summer camp at Camp Curry Creek in Brockway, while a Punxsutawney troop may take a day trip to Washington, D.C., June 9 to “rock the mall.”

That day, girls from around the country will participate in a national sing-along to celebrate the 100th anniversary.

Drake, who has been a Girl Scout Leader for eight years, has witnessed a tremendous amount of growth in those she leads, especially in her two daughters.

“It’s neat to be able to celebrate 100 years of Girl Scouting since I’ve seen my own children go through the different levels,” she said.

As a junior troop leader, Drake has been able to expose her scouts to service and leadership in the local community.

Recently, her troop spent time visiting residents at Laurelbrooke Landing and decorated Main Street with the Brookville Civic Club. Troop 20293, of Punxsutawney, has also been greatly involved in the local community. Girl Scouts from Troop 20293 volunteer their time at the Punxsutawney Area Community Center, Mulberry Square and for various Punxsy Civic organizations, such as the VFW.

“We’ve just had so many opportunities to be a part of the community, to give back to the community,” Drake said. “And for the girls to experience that in the community they live in, I think it’s really important.”

Wendy Haldeman, assistant troop leader for Troop 20293, agrees.

“I think (Girl Scouting) teaches them skills that they can use for the rest of their lives, that are not only skills that are beneficial for themselves, as in developing leadership, but it also teaches them to give back to the community,” Haldeman said.

In addition to the cookie sale, Troop 20288 is now in the process of developing a community service activity in order to achieve a bronze award.

“Service to others is very important, but more recently, they’re learning leadership,” she said. “The bronze award focuses solely on leadership, helping them to grow more into a leader as they get older and work toward accomplishing goals as teenagers and beyond.”

The door-to-door cookie sale began last Friday and will continue through Jan. 25. The cookie delivery date is slated for Feb. 16, but once the door-to-door sale ends, Girl Scouts will take part in booth sales, which will run from Feb. 24 to March 11.

Punxsutawney troops already have one booth sale planned at County Market Feb. 25-26.