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It's Cookie Time!

Spring is here and so are Girl Scout cookies. I love Girl Scout cookies, particularly the original Peanut Butter Sandwich and Short Breads. It’s hard to stop eating them; the plastic sleeves they come in are just too small.

Cookies have been a mainstay of the Girl Scouts’ financial support since 1917. Since 2007, the troops have sold more than 200 million boxes each year just in the United States. That’s astonishing.

Each year there are changes in the variety. Up to 28 varieties are available each year, but they insist that each troop stick with three at all times: Thin Mints, Peanut Butter Sandwich and Short Breads.

In the early 1980s, Elizabeth Brinton sold about 18,000 boxes! That was in one year, and it included some to President Reagan.

The cookies were first sold by Girl Scouts in Oklahoma, and in the 1930s sales spread around the rest of the nation so that they became almost the label and logo of the Girl Scouts. Cookie sales were stopped during World War II, and instead the troops sold calendars and war bonds.

The cookies now are made by Keebler Foods and Interbake Foods. The manufacturers keep approximately 30 percent of the retail sales proceeds, and the regional councils collect the rest with a sort of commission paid to the local troop. An excellent portion of the proceeds goes directly to the regional Girl Scouts councils and local troops for programs. The costs of the national organization and programs are mostly borne by corporate and foundation gifts, and grants and not cookie money.

The Girl Scouts movement was started in 1911 by Juilette “Daisy” Gordon Low in Savanah, Georgia, after she met with the English founder of the Boys Scout movement, Robert Baden-Powell. By 1914, she had 18 active girls in her local troop. Her original motivation was to get young women out of the house, into the woods and countryside, to travel, to learn camping, to compete in outdoor sports, to learn auto and machine repair and to develop leadership skill.

Over the years, technology and cultural changes have changed the goals and projects of the Girl Scouts, but not by much. Today’s objectives remain focused on outdoor life, getting young women involved in science and technology, teaching young women finance and entrepreneurship, and finally teaching young women safe and healthy lifestyles. And today the organization is huge both across the United States and across the world.

Between 1914 and 1920, the Girl Scouts organization (Girl Scouts of the United States of America) grew large. The headquarters was moved to New York City, a major conference center was built, an award system was organized, including the famed Golden Eagle Award, cookies sales started in Oklahoma and foreign organizations were started.

In the 1930s, the troops were divided by age with Brownies, Juniors, Cadettes and later Daisy, Seniors and Ambassadors (or Studio 2B).

In 1950, the Girl Scouts received a congressional charter. The membership stood at approximately 2,230,000 members.

As the organization grew, so did its downstream structure. In 2004, the structure was reorganized into first 312 regional councils, and it was reorganized again in 2006 into 112 councils, with a total of 236,000 local troops.

Since Lou Hoover, the first lady of the United States has served as honorary chairman of the Girl Scouts. The current (2015) president is Kathy Hopinkah Hannan, and the CEO is Anna Maria Chavez.

St Anthony’s Troop 786 is very active in Florence under the direction of the energetic Debra Sullivan.

Eat your cookies … but save the Peanut Butter Sandwich for me!


Image creds: (Tom McCorkle for The Washington Post; food styling by Carolyn Robb for The Washington Post)

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