Scouts say annual cookie season helps them fund projects, build skills

February 9, 2014 Updated: February 9, 2014 at 3:08 am
photo - Senior Girl Scout Hannah Clair, 15, left, and her mother, Jody Clair, show off their garage full of boxes of girl scout cookies Tuesday, February 4, 2014. Hannah has been selling the cookies with her mother for 11 years. Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette
Senior Girl Scout Hannah Clair, 15, left, and her mother, Jody Clair, show off their garage full of boxes of girl scout cookies Tuesday, February 4, 2014. Hannah has been selling the cookies with her mother for 11 years. Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette  

Maybe it's the flavors.

Maybe it's that they are sold only for a limited time every year.

Or maybe it's just the "cute" factor that makes it nearly impossible not to buy cookies from the eager salesgirls clutching their order forms and looking so hopeful.

Whatever the reason, Girl Scouts across the country sell millions of boxes of cookies each year - in less than two months no less. But the real benefit to the scouts is twofold: They get to use the revenues for trips and projects while building business and personal skills that will serve them well into adulthood.

Girl Scouts start their national cookie sales in Colorado each year by going door-to-door around the end of January. Then, around Feb. 7, the girls open their familiar booths in front of grocery stores, coffee shops and other retail locations.

The annual cookie sale is the organization's major fundraiser. Last year, Girl Scouts nationwide sold more than 200 million boxes of cookies, earning $790 million in revenues, after expenses. In Colorado, revenues raised from last year's cookie sales accounted for 67 percent of the state organization's 2012-13 annual fiscal budget, according to Amanda Kalina, public relations director for Girl Scouts of Colorado.

Kalina said via email that Colorado Girls Scouts sold 4 million cookie boxes last year - 650,000 of them in Colorado Springs. Last year, the Colorado Springs' troops received 72 cents on each box sold, raising $468,000, after expenses. This year the local troops will receive 84 cents per box. The money helps pay for adult volunteer training, Scouting camps, maintaining properties and Scouting programs.

"Our summer camps, for example, would cost 50 percent more if it wasn't for Girl Scout Cookie time," Kalina wrote.

Last year, 15-year-old Hannah Clair sold 800 boxes and received 72 cents per box, netting her troop $576. The money she and the other girls in her troop raised helped pay for their trip to Disney World. The trip was a high point, but Hannah, who made her first cookie sale when she was in second grade, said selling cookies has given her more valuable skills, such as money management and budgeting.

She has learned to spend some money on projects and to donate some "to the Hometown Heroes or the military." Hannah achieved a personal best last year when one man bought three cases from her at a Safeway booth sale.

Hannah's mom, Jody, said selling Girl Scout cookies also has helped Hannah grow personally. She said the amount of self-confidence her daughter has now compared to when she started cookie sales is "amazing."

Selling Girl Scout cookies has taught Hannah how to talk to people, express herself and handle rejection, Jody Clair said.

"And I hope, and think, it will help her with job interviews, 'cause she is almost at that age," Clair said.

The organization's history shows Jody Clair doesn't have to worry for her daughter. More than two-thirds of women business owners and CEOs, U.S. senators and congresswomen, were in scouting, according to the Girl Scouts of Colorado website.

Mia Mathis, 12, is in her seventh year of selling cookies. Like Hannah, Mia has gained more confidence and learned money management skills through the annual door-to-door and booth sales.

And she's also getting experience in how to be a great saleswoman by learning how to overcome the word "no."

"Because if someone says I can't eat cookies 'cause I am on a diet, then I say 'Well you can donate them to our Hometown Heroes,'" she said, referring to a program that allows buyers to donate boxes of cookies to nonprofits, food banks, and military and uniformed personnel. Last year, the Hometown Heroes program in Colorado took in 124,897 packages for hundreds of organizations, according to the Colorado Girl Scouts' website.

Mathis' troop will use this year's cookie sales money to pay for a summer trip somewhere in Colorado.

The revenues from cookie sales and other fundraisers benefit not only the girls, but Girl Scout moms as well, said Mia's mother, Alecia Mathis, who has led Troop 922 since Mia's involvement.

Mathis said being a troop leader has given her memories of time spent with her daughter that she would not have had otherwise.

She's ridden amusement park rides and taken the girls camping several times - activities she would not have undertaken were she not a troop leader. And as a single mother, she gets to do them, in part, because of cookie sales.

"We have a lot of single-parent homes, and they would not normally be able to do some things," she said.

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