If You Give a Girl Scout a Cookie…

Once a year, Girl Scouts from across the country unite to fulfill a shared tradition and mission – in the well-known form of selling cookies. Whether you’ve sold Girl Scout cookies at some point in your life or eagerly await stocking up your pantry with these nostalgic treats, there’s something to look forward to for everyone when Girl Scout Cookie season rolls around. For the local Girl Scouts in and around Lebanon, there’s a lot of preparation that leads up to this beloved – and busy – time of year. Lebanon local Erin Buck is a troop leader to 18 Girl Scouts in the Upper Valley, including her two daughters, Acadia and Azalea Buck. This year, they have some big goals for cookie season. Acadia, 14, plans to sell at least 1,000 boxes of cookies, while Azalea, 8, has made a goal to sell 2,024 boxes between January up until March.

Selling cookies is more than just a fundraiser or an activity to pass the time; for Girl Scouts, it’s an opportunity to learn and realize their ability to succeed when they put their minds to something.

“I like doing cookie booths because I get a chance to manage the money or do credit-card transactions,” Acadia says. “And, I like eating cookies.”

Certain incentives also help motivate Girl Scouts to reach their cookie-selling goals. This year, if a Girl Scout sells 1,000 boxes of cookies, she gets a pair of custom Converse sneakers, and another pair will be given to a child in need. If she sells 2,024 boxes, she wins a two-week day or resident camp program or an iPad, and if she sells 5,000, she wins a travel trip.

At age 10, Acadia was the top cookie seller of the Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains and was awarded a trip to Athens , Greece. Unfortunately, the trip was canceled due to the pandemic.

But, it’s not just the incentives that inspire Girl Scouts to sell cookies, Acadia and Azalea both report. “The most important thing about the shoes [prize] is that you also give a kid [in need] shoes,” Azalea says.

give a girl scout a cookie - Acadia delivering cookies sold at Tractor Supply
Acadia working toward her 1000 boxes of cookies sold at Tractor Supply.

“The Girl Scout Cookie program is the world’s largest girl-led entrepreneurial program,” says Carrie Loszewski, VP of engagement for Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains. “[It teaches] five incredibly valuable lessons in life skills: decision-making, goal-setting, financial literacy, business ethics, and people skills.”

Girl Scouts learn about and practice these skills throughout the year leading up pivotal moments like Cookie Season where they get to witness the culmination of their efforts in action. Along with these five important skills, Girl Scouts also focus on the importance of building and belonging to a community throughout the year.

Buck became a Girl Scout troop leader shortly after Acadia became a Girl Scout when she was in kindergarten. Since then, their troop has grown and had many memorable experiences together.

Acadia’s troop is a multi-level troop (Girl Scouts of all different grade-levels and ages) that caters to each girl’s interests and needs. “My role is to support all of those kids and create a bigger sisterhood than just ourselves,” Buck says. “I’m blessed that I get to do this with both of my children at the same time, and be able to offer a second family for a lot of children in our community.”

Buck also supports her daughters as a “Cookie Mom”. Cookie moms are a crucial part of their daughters’ experiences as they help with delivering cookies and restocking inventory, and they travel all across the Upper Valley to do so. “That’s what we do as Cookie Moms; we help [our Girl Scouts] get there,” Buck says. “I think one word to describe Cookie Moms is ‘organized’,” Buck says. “I put a lot of energy into understanding what both of my kiddos goals are for the season ahead…it means being realistic about our
goal-setting and managing expectations.” There are various steps throughout the season that start with initial ordering, which involves asking local businesses and community members to support their local Girl Scouts. This encourages Girl Scouts to get to know members of their community and create new relationships, while also teaching business and entrepreneurial skills. Next steps include booth sales at local businesses, like Joann Fabrics or the Lebanon Coop.

Acadia and Azalea’s troop meets every Monday. Weekly troop meetings begin with a snack, followed by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and the Girl Scout Promise and Law. The rest of the meeting might consist of crafts or an activity that explores the traits involved in earning a particular badge.

During cookie season last year, Girl Scouts in Buck’s troop created their own version of The Day the Crayons Quit – an imaginative picture book written by Drew Daywalt about the interpersonal conflicts between different colors in a box of crayons.

The Girl Scout version of the story followed a similar plot, but instead of crayons, each of the girls were assigned different Girl Scout cookies – both current and discontinued varieties. By looking at life through the perspective of each cookie type, they created dialogue between each of their characters. The re-imagined story, “The Day the Cookies Snapped”, was a way for the Girl Scouts in Buck’s troop to use their imagination to find a creative solution to a make-believe problem, and to familiarize themselves with all the different types of Girl Scout cookies. The Girl Scouts program is built around trust and nurturing relationships through unique shared experiences. Through activities, badge opportunities, and community service, Girl Scouts have a chance to work together as a team and express themselves creatively, while also offering their unique talents to help solve problems.

“Encouraging girls to explore, reach for their dreams, and thrive in our complicated world while being their authentic selves is core to the mission of Girl Scouts,” Loszewski says.

“While many Girl Scouts earn these prestigious honors, earning badges and participating in our activities fulfills our mission to make the world a better place,” she adds. “You see it when a young girl comes out of her shell to speak up for herself, when a child conquers her fear and reaches the top of our climbing wall or jumps into the water at summer camp, or simply makes a new friend.”

give a girl scout a cookie - Azalea preparing food
Azalea preparing food for community members at the LISTEN Center Dinner

Girl Scouts interact with their local communities in a number of ways. Some of Acadia’s favorite ways to give back to her community as a Girl Scout are by volunteering to help serve dinners at the LISTEN Center, helping out at local humane societies, and participating in local food drives. “I get to help my community and learn business skills,” she says. “I also feel like a leader in my community.”

Through the Girl Scout program, girls complete a variety of tasks that challenge them to employ their knowledge and skills to earn badges. Each badge represents a different trait or skill earned when a Girl Scout completes a particular project among a variety of categories.

“Since 1912, girls have learned to turn their passions into action through Girl Scouting. Whether they’re using science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills to solve problems; starting their own nonprofits; finding more ways to protect the environment; or discovering the power of spreading kindness, all their actions add up to a better world,” Loszewski says.

Earning badges in areas like these encourages Girl Scouts to not only better themselves, but also make a difference to others around them by giving back to their community.

“Girl Scouts of all ages take action in their communities,” Loszewski adds. “The pinnacle of the Girl Scout Experience is the Gold Award, which Girl Scouts in grades 9-12 may earn. This past membership year, 18 Girl Scouts in our council achieved this remarkable honor. They took on issues like fighting the negative impact of fast fashion, helping grieving children, helping children deal with stress and anxiety, honoring veterans, encouraging reading, feeding the hungry, and more.”

Younger Girl Scouts – like Azalea – also give back to their communities and learn leadership skills by earning awards and badges for their grade levels.

give a girl scout a cookie - Azalea, Erin, and Acadia smiling at the Memorial Parade
Azalea, Erin, and Acadia at the Memorial Day Parade in Lebanon.

“We try to plan a variety of activities so it hits every kid’s interest,” Buck says. Everyone is able to share their interests and can expect their ideas to be heard. The older girls of the group including Acadia will help the younger troops like Azalea, voice their opinions. Older kids give ideas that will benefit the wants and needs of the younger girls and they have a strong connection with them.

“Often, our youngest look up to our biggest,” Buck says. “Emotionally, [the older girls] are very important, they help stabilize the younger side of the group. They find a lot of comfort in each other and that’s an integral part of what we do.”

“Really, it’s just about how much fun we get to have with the Girls and we get to go on fun trips,” Azalea says. “And it’s amazing that we get to help the community and other people.”

Fun trips that align with learning goals – like visits to a trampoline park or amusement park, camping adventures, and even international travels – are some of the experiences that Girl Scouts look forward to as they advance through the program and celebrate their accomplishments. An annual boat race is one of Azalea’s favorite Girl Scout memories, where her troop works together to craft boats out of cardboard and duct tape and race them across the pool at Six Flags.

The quality time that the Girl Scouts get to spend with each other allows for relationships to develop and flourish within the troop. For Azalea, it’s this quality time and friendships that she loves most about being a Girl Scout. “I love spending time with everyone and I know I’m with safe people,” she says.

“When other parts of life aren’t going well, Girl Scouts is a big outlet,” Buck adds. “It’s a different group of people that you can be yourself with.”