BRISTOL - Thin Mints. Samoas. Tagalongs. Do-si-dos.
Girl Scouts cookie season is almost here.
Stands will be popping up in front of grocery stores and in shopping plazas throughout March. In Bristol, troops will be selling at Walmart and several other places.
These cookies are more than a delicious snack. They help young girls achieve their goals.
“It’s not just about the cookies. It’s about the good that’s being done because they’re selling the cookies,” said Mary Barneby, CEO of Girl Scouts of Connecticut.
The theme for this season is “go for bold.”
“‘Go for bold’ means to me be proud of yourself and reach out for your goals,” said Christine Hoffman, the cookie manager for Bristol for about 19 years. “Experience everything, and not be afraid to experience it.”
Hoffman said the 31 troops in the city sold 32,236 boxes last year. And they’re aiming for even more this year.
That’s because selling cookies provides Girl Scouts with the funds to take trips, go to camp or give back to the community.
“They’re selling cookies with a purpose for the funds they raise,” Barneby said.
Girls must sell at least 30 boxes to earn a patch. Selling more than 30 can earn them a bracelet and an assortment of other prizes. If a Girl Scout sells 150 boxes, she gets a patch, prizes and “cookie credits.”
Kids can use “cookie credits” at the council store or toward summer camp. If used toward summer camp, the credits double, so $10 turns into $20 off summer camp.
Cookie selling also teaches young girls a multitude of skills.
Girl Scouts attended a “Cookie Rally” last month where they did different activities and learned about the cookies and how to sell them.
“The cookie program not only builds confidence in girls, but there are also five specific skills they learn,” Barneby said.
Hoffman explained those five skills.
One is goal setting. The girls also learned at the rally how to set goals for their troop. For example, if a troop wanted to go to the dude ranch in New York, they had to figure out how many boxes to sell to reach that goal.
The next one is decision making. Troops have to decide where and when to sell cookies. Many girls also implement their own marketing strategies, like using social media, said Barneby.
“There’s so many elements to it. They’re thinking how they’re going to attract people to their booths,” she added.
Money management is another important skill. From the time they’re daisies - Girl Scouts in kindergarten and first grade - they’re learning about money, said Hoffman.
People skills are also a critical aspect of cookie selling. Hoffman said working with people is all about “having that confidence in yourself.”
Girl Scouts teaches the girls to say “thank you” even when people don’t buy cookies. The girls have to “learn how to take the no’s along with the yes’s,” Hoffman added.
Lastly is business ethics. The girls are encouraged to take accurate orders and take care of their inventory.
Many troop leaders incorporate those goals into practice.
“We’re trying to learn money management and each girl has goals of going on trips and to camp,” said Brandy Welesky, leader of Troop 66034, a Brownie (grades 2 to 3) level troop. The troop goal is to sell 1,000 boxes.
When asked what they like about cookie selling, the Girl Scouts responded enthusiastically.
“It’s because we can get prizes after,” said Madison Hughes, 6, whose favorite cookie is Samoas.
“We can get the money and then we can go on trips,” said Makinzey Welch, 7, who also likes Samoas the best.
Kaitlyn Lombardi, part of Troop 66177, is a sophomore in high school. She said her personal goal is to sell 100 boxes.
“I learn about marketing and independence,” she said.
Another thing she likes about cookie selling is “that the money helps out the troops.”
Through “Cookies for Heroes” Girl Scouts can take donation orders and send boxes to troops in the U.S. and overseas, to troops in hospitals and to veterans.
“They (the Girl Scouts) really look at this as an opportunity to give back to the community,” Barneby said. She added that one troop even used their cookie sales to build a well in Africa.
Girl Scouts get $1 back for every box they sell. Last year, Girl Scouts sold 2.1 million boxes in the state, which amounts to $2 million going directly back to the sellers.
Money that doesn’t go back to the sellers or pays for making the cookies benefits Girl Scout programs in the state, said Barneby.
How to buy cookies
There’s many ways to snag a box, or a couple. On the Girl Scouts website and their mobile app, you can enter your zipcode and find cookie sellers nearby.
For example, in Southington, there will be booths at Walmart, 235 Queen St., on March 2, 3, 16, 17, 23, 24, 31 and Fancy Bagels, 405 Queen St., on March 10.
Or, if you know a Girl Scout, you can buy cookies directly online with the Digital Cookie platform, which is now in its fifth year. If the scout has opted into the program, she can give you a link or the address of her personal website where you can buy cookies.
The cookie varieties in Connecticut are: Thin Mints, Samoas, Tagalongs, Do-si-dos, S’mores, Trefoils, Savannah Smiles and the gluten-free Toffee-tastic. The Thin Mints are vegan. All cookies are kosher. Thin Mints, Samoas, and Tagalongs are the three top sellers.
A box of cookies is $5, except for Toffee-tastic and Girl Scout S’mores, which are $6 each.
Need a drink to dip those cookies in? Dunkin Donuts is also dipping into the cookie season. The franchise is offering Girl Scouts flavored drinks like Thin Mints, Coconut Carmel and the new Trefoils Shortbread, which is the original Girl Scouts cookie. Dunkin Donuts is also encouraging local troops to sell at their stores.
For more information and to find cookie sellers near you go to www.gsofct.org .
Michelle Jalbert can be reached at email@example.com.