One hundred years of Girl Scouts

By Linze Griebenow

Since 1917, cookie sales have helped Girl Scouts of the USA to educate, empower and engage girls and teens into becoming future leaders of America.

Started in 1912, 2012 marks the organization’s 100 year anniversary and funds from cookie sales are crucial for the group’s ongoing progress, generating over $750 million in cookie funds alone.

Though many view the cookie season as a time to stock up from their family members and neighbors, the Girl Scout’s cookie tradition acts as an important lesson in allowing girls to explore trade, business, apply math and science knowledge and learn about potential careers. According to the Girl Scout’s website, through the cookie sales process, girls focus on developing skills such as money management, business ethics, and decision-making. Girl Scouts of Northern Illinois, which includes DeKalb County, is comprised of nearly 20,000 scouts with 6,000 adult leaders all working together to produce sales that will aid in funding programs that emphasize age-appropriate cookie-based skills from how to greet customers politely to marketing strategies.

Hailie Fowler, Genoa-Kingson Girl Scout Troop 679 13-year alumna, said that communication abilities, self-confidence and professionalism are all skills learned from the cookie-selling process that have stayed with her since kindergarten.

“It definitely got me out of my shell and taught me how to work on a sales pitch,” Fowler said. “Mostly though, I think it taught me how to present myself professionally instead of just being like, ‘Yo, buy these cookies!’.”

Michelle Bergeson, Cortland resident and Girl Scout Troop 1327 leader, says that cookie sales are necessary to fund goals set by the troop, such as covering admission costs to summer camp.

“Camp costs $50.00 a girl, so we hope that we can sell enough where each girl only has to pay $5.00,” Bergeson said. “Each year patches and supplies cost about $120.00 so cookie sales cover that as well as dues so that we can keep it where no one has to pay to stay in the troop.”

With a troop of ten girls, Bergeson said the group’s goal of 115 boxes a person is not only feasible, but give the troop a three-year streak of meeting or exceeding their cookie sales goal.

“When we meet [our goal] the girls are rewarded with a troop outing, like a ‘Girl Scout Day’,” Bergeson said. “The last two years, we celebrated by all going to Magic Waters.”

Similarly, Fowler said that proceeds went towards budgeting an overnight experience at the Museum of Science and Industry as well as craft supplies that generally went back into the community by means of local projects.

New to the cookie scene this year and named to honor Girl Scout founder Juliette Low’s birthplace, is the Savanah Smile, a curved lemon-wedge cookie who’s shape is meant to emulate the ‘Brownie Smile’ ,from a traditional Girl Scout song, that each girl possesses.

Additionally, Girl Scout troops may choose to participate in the ‘Gift of Caring: Cookie for Soldiers’ or the ‘Community Gift of Caring’ programs where girls give patrons the option to purchase cookies for troops or to a specific community organization.

Cookie sales faced potential danger earlier this month when a 7-year-old transgender girl’s inclusion by her local Girl Scout troop sparked outrage from an organization named, . One troop member, self-identified only as Taylor, publicly chastised her oranization for its acceptance of transgender girls and urged the nation to boycott cookie sales in an online video . The decision to include trans girls in Girl Scouts was officially backed by the Girl Scouts of the USA in an October 2011 statement asserting, “If a child identifies as a girl and the child’s family presents her as a girl, Girl Scouts of Colorado welcomes her as a Girl Scout.”

Fowler, too, believes that inclusivity was key in keeping with Girl Scout values.

“I really supported the decision to include these girls,” Fowler said. “Being inclusive of trans communities supports what the Girl Scouts are all about, like community and acceptance. I know it’s a really controversial issue right now, especially for the younger scouts who maybe don’t know as much about trans history or women’s history, but I think we can set an example for them that we’re all in this together.”