Photo: Pictured above, troop leader Carolyn Jester’s local Girl Scout group smiles for a photo after raising goods for a food drive to support the community.
By Katie Bohannon, Staff Writer
On Jan. 7, the Girl Scouts of North-Central Alabama launched their 2020 Girl Scout Cookie Season, officially beginning cookie sales for the new year. While cookie sales are an exciting time for supporters to purchase delicious treats, the event represents the mission a century in the making and the vision that encourages girls of today to redefine possibilities and form powerful leaders of tomorrow.
Juliette Gordon “Daisy” Low formed the Girl Scouts more than 100 years ago, after meeting with Boy Scouts founder Sir Robert Baden-Powell and learning about a new outdoor and educational program for youth. Low invited a culturally and ethnically diverse group of 18 girls from her hometown Savannah, Georgia, breaking the boundaries of societal convention to nurture a safe and welcoming environment where girls can flourish. Low and the 18 girls studied foreign language and learned how to tell time by the stars; they hiked, camped, swam and engaged in sports; they encouraged a healthy curiosity and believed that girls have the power to reach their goals and accomplish their dreams. Together, regardless of their backgrounds or perceived limitations, Low and the first troop created a movement that protects young girls’ dreams, fosters their courage and develops their confidence, inspiring them to become women with vision, who want to make the world a better place.
Since Low’s first Girl Scouts in 1912, the Girl Scouts spread their branches and expanded their troops. Today, 2.5 million participants believe in the Girl Scouts’ mission and girls worldwide are developing a stronger sense of self, displaying positive values, forming and maintaining healthy relationships, learning from challenges and discovering problem-solving methods to better their communities.
The Girl Scout Cookie Program teaches girls the realities of entrepreneurship in a light-hearted and fun atmosphere that focuses on essential skills like money management, decision making and public speaking. Through the cookie program, girls establish an understanding of what is required to succeed in their professional endeavors and strengthen skills that will benefit them in the workplace and life.
“Girl Scout Cookies are a sweet treat for customers, but represent so much more to the girls who benefit from the Girl Scout Cookie Program,” said Girl Scouts of North-Central Alabama CEO Karen Peterlin. “As Girl Scouts run their own cookie business, they learn important business and financial literacy skills, which help them become leaders and prepare them for success in the future. When you purchase a box of Girl Scout Cookies, you are supporting local female entrepreneurs.”
Cookie sales foster new experiences for girls, establishing programs and activities that broaden young girls’ interests in business and leadership. In addition, all proceeds remain local, so when individuals purchases a box of cookies from Girl Scouts in their community, their donation contributes to the council and troops in their area. The money earned may fund projects to improve the community or donated to worthy causes.
In Etowah County, local Girl Scout troop leader Carolyn Jester understands firsthand the positive impact the Girl Scout Cookie Program creates for young girls and the advantage of participating in an organization that teaches girls to support one another. While she was never a Girl Scout herself, Jester began as a troop leader in 2007 when her daughter was in fourth grade. Since then, her attendance at numerous programs, camps and activities gave her the opportunity to witness how Girl Scouts teaches girls valuable life lessons as she learned along with her troop.
“Juliette Low started this program so girls can be all that they can dream,” said Jester. “I have learned that there is so much out there for girls, good and bad. Girl Scouts gives girls a safe environment to try new things, make new friends and become leaders of the future.”
While each girl in Jester’s troop strives for an individual goal, the troop as a whole plans to sell 8,000 cookie boxes to beat their sales from 2019. The girls are researching organizations in the community to see what is needed and how they can help. One third of the troop’s profits is set aside for camps and trips, another third is designated to activities and badge supplies and one third is invested in Etowah County. So far, the girls are brainstorming ideas of how to help their home, while discussing donations to the Humane Society, the Baptist Mission Center, Mercy Depot and Walnut Park School.
Jester’s troop is filled with girls who joined Girl Scouts for endless reasons—from thinking Girl Scouts would be fun, to the excitement of meeting new people and trying new things, to a family tradition passed down from generation to generation of women. The older girls shared that Girl Scouts taught them to always stay true to themselves, that girls do not have to change who they are to be accepted, while the younger girls learned what it means to be a friend, to help others and how to treat people with kindness.
Through the relationships formed between older and younger Girl Scout participants, the older girls experience how their actions influence the younger girls, how they can teach girls who stand where they once stood and watch them grow. While the young girls look up to their leaders and aspire to become their best selves, Girl Scouts never eliminates that spirited nature embedded in all girls to dream, wonder, laugh and play—and of course, love cookies.
“I love the values that the program instills in the girls and the friendships that develop throughout their years in the program and beyond,” said Jester. “I love to see the little Daisies (K-1st grade) grasp a concept, learn a new song and master a skill and watch their eyes light up when they realize they have done something they have never done before. I love to watch the Brownies and Juniors (2nd -5th) make friends and work out differences while camping, hiking or painting. And it makes me proud to watch my Cadettes (6th-8th), Seniors and Ambassadors (10th-12th) teach the younger girls traditions and skills, and to watch the younger girls look up to them. It’s about finding your place and leading others to find theirs.”
The local Girl Scout troop holds meetings at East Gadsden United Methodist Church. For more information on joining a local Girl Scout troop, finding cookie sale locations or the Girl Scout mission, visit www.girlscouts.org, www.girlscoutsnca.org or call 800-734-4541.