Girl Scout Cookie sales have returned, providing a tasty treat for neighbors, revenue for troops and an invaluable experience for scouts.
Currently, Girl Scouts throughout Columbia County are collecting cookie orders for the pre-sale period, which began Jan. 4, and they will soon be stationed in front of local stores for booth sales, which will begin Feb. 14 and continue until March 8.
Eight different cookie varieties are available in Oregon and Southwest Washington this year. Flavors include classics like Thin Mints, Do-si-dos, Tagalongs, Samoas and Trefoils, as well as newer cookies like Toffee-tastics, Girl Scout S’mores, and the newest version this year, Lemon-ups. Boxes cost $5 for core cookies and $6 for specialty cookies, a one-dollar price increase for each kind from last year.
According to information provided on the official Girl Scouts website, cookie sales generate revenue for the local council that each troop is a part of, as well as for the troops themselves to pay for supplies, activities and travel. Troops in Columbia County are part of the Oregon and Southwest Washington Girl Scout council.
“Cookie program revenue is a critical source of funding for Girl Scout councils to deliver essential programming to troops and is often what makes it possible to reach girls in underserved areas and maintain camps and properties,” the Girl Scouts website information page states.
Shannon Vaerewyck, a troop leader of 19 years, who now leads Girl Scout Troop 10224, based in St. Helens, said each troop sets its own goal for how many boxes of cookies they would like to sell. The goal might be related to an activity the troop wants to do together, or scouts can be individually motivated by different prizes for selling different amounts of boxes.
Vaerewyck said the younger Scouts are often motivated by prizes, while older Scouts are often more motivated by activities for their troop.
Individual troops can sell a large number of boxes. According to Vaerewyck, her troop last year sold 6,163 boxes. Other troops sold numbers in the 4,000 or 2,000 range.
“So they’re working really hard at selling cookies,” Vaerewyck said.
Vaerewyck’s troop this year is made up of older girls, ranging from 7th through 12th grade, who have been raising money for the last five years for a trip to Europe. She said their goal is just to raise as much money as they can to meet that goal, and as of now, they are on target to pay off their expenses by March.
Cookie sales can be an efficient way to fund trips. This is the second time Vaerewyck has sold cookies to fund a trip to Europe. Her first troop raised $32,000 in just five years solely through cookie sales.
Troops can also raise money through cookie sales for activities like backpacking, camping, or other day field trips. Some Girl Scouts can sell so many boxes of cookies that they can fund their stay at a Girl Scout resident camp, a popular activity for many scouts.
But the cookie sales do more than raise funds for Girl Scouts. Vaerewyck said the cookie sales help Scouts develop important skills in communication, leadership, commitment and business, as well as serve as a way to pay for troop activities and help each Girl Scout troop be self-sustaining.
“It’s about the things that the girls learn as a whole package," Vaerewyck said. "The girls learn budgeting, marketing, working together as a team, communication. Some of these girls are so shy, they don’t even talk within their troop, but they have to get out."
There are approximately 90 Girl Scouts in the St. Helens and Scappoose area combined, according to Vaerewyck, so Columbia County residents can be sure to have a lot of chances to buy their cookies.
Troops can be as small as five girls, while most troops average between 10 to 15 girls, Vaerewyck said. However, there is a large variation in size, because there is a troop in Scappoose with 36 girls, another with 19 girls, and Vaerewyck’s own troop with 11 girls.
When cookie booths start, troops will be stationed in front of the Walmart and Safeway in St. Helens, as well as the Fred Meyer in Scappoose, according to Vaerewyck.
Interested cookie-buyers will have a new tool on hand this year to locate booths. The Girl Scout Cookie Finder app, available to anyone with a smart phone, involves typing in one’s zip code and then pressing “find cookies now,” which pulls up locations where cookie booth sales are happening.
For the Scouts selling cookies, Vaerewyck has a couple of tips.
“Always have a smile, no matter if the snow is blowing sideways,” she said. “And don’t get discouraged if you get more nos than yeses because any time you do sales, there are always more nos than yeses. And if you go out and do your best, that’s the win right there.”