In an unlit parking lot in an obscure section of Pleasanton, the van slowly drives in. As the customers approach, the tailgate lifts displaying the merchandise. Money is exchanged as goods are purchased. Disheveled, hungry customers smile and disappear quickly. "No way! You're out of Thin Mints??"
— Lindy Curtis, Pleasanton
The thought of little girls exchanging goods for cash in dark parking lots does not conjure up the wholesome image you'd expect Girls Scouts to embody. Still, in recent weeks, my fifth-grade daughters and I found ourselves conducting business in ways that inspired my friend Lindy, one of our customers, to write up a dramatic re-enactment.
With only a few weeks of 2011 Girl Scout Cookie season remaining, it’s time to get in on the action if you haven’t already.
This year, I restrained myself from purchasing 36 boxes and opted for only 12. To recoup the loss of mom’s purchases, my daughters needed new customers.
The girls quickly learned that families with only sons are eager to buy, as are families whose college-age kids cherish care packages. One of our best customers covered both those bases. Her 2010 Foothill graduate is now a college freshman in Texas. Her other two children at home are boys ages 13 and 16.
Other moms like me are swearing off cookies, including Julie Stern, who vowed to give up Girl Scout Cookies for Lent. The irony? Julie is Jewish. She doesn't need to observe Lent.
But Girl Scouts offer many reasons to buy cookies, including a calorie-free option: Customers who don't want to eat cookies can purchase boxes for the Girl Scouts Gift of Caring program, which donates the cookies to local food banks or to members of the U.S. military serving overseas.
"But what happens to all that cookie ‘dough' you make?’"customers asked during our troop's recent cookie sale at the Pleasanton farmer’s market.
The answers vary:
Girl Scout Leadership Awards
Our troop members, who are fifth-grade Junior Girl Scouts, are well into the process of earning their Bronze Award. For their project, they chose to conduct an elaborate book drive to support preschool programs in the Tri-Valley operated by C.A.P.E./Head Start, a local, federally-funded Head Start organization supporting early childhood education needs of families who otherwise could not afford to send their children to preschool.
Because Girl Scouts may not solicit cash donations, our girls need a small amount of capital to be able to reach out to the community through advertising and promotion efforts. Profits from cookie sales are vital to the project.
Annual Girl Scout sales allow girls to experience once-in-a-lifetime events. For example, when our troop bridges to the Cadet level this May, the girls will participate in the annual Golden Gate Bridging ceremony with thousands of Girl Scouts from Northern California and regions across the country.
Empowerment and Lifelong Friendships
From camping trips to adventures in the arts and sciences, Girl Scouts learn – and use – skills relating to games, First Aid, safety, smart decision-making, leadership, teamwork and compromise. Mistakes are made along the way, no doubt. But through trial and error, compromise and creativity, Girl Scouts have fun and learn in safe environments. Meanwhile, they build lasting friendships and lifelong memories.
Social, Educational and Personal Growth
Funds from Girl Scout cookie sales also support programs such as the Career Night held last spring by a group of middle-school aged Pleasanton Scouts and coordinated by Girl Scout troop leader Margo Tschirky.
The career night featured dozens of women professionals, including Mayor Jennifer Hosterman. Each professional spoke to small groups of girls who rotated from station to station to learn about many types of careers women have, and details on how girls and women can use education, ingenuity and experience to succeed.
Simply put, Girl Scout sales promote the growth and development of girls, who nurture life skills in making their world a better place.
In the words of the Girl Scout Law: "I promise to do my best to be honest and fair, friendly and helpful, considerate and caring, courageous and strong, and responsible for what I say and do, and to respect myself and others, respect authority, use resources wisely, make the world a better place, and be a sister to every Girl Scout."
With that declaration, it's time to stop giving up Girl Scout cookies and embrace our inner Cookie Monsters.
Cameron Sullivan is the author of the blog, Candid Cameron.