By MARY DOYLE
As a Girl Scout living in Clairemont and Santee, young Nicole Ries enjoyed the rituals of the cookie program: ringing doorbells, setting up a card table at her church, and making a personal pitch to employees at her parents’ workplaces. Years later, when she discovered she was pregnant with the first of her two daughters, Nicole began investigating Girl Scout volunteer opportunities. Now she leads Troop 5909, a group based at Clay Elementary in La Mesa and includes her daughters, Lily and Rosie, and their troopmates in grades K-2.
Last year, Lily topped the La Mesa Service Unit in number of cookie packages marketed by a Daisy Girl Scout. During cookie season, she insisted on wearing her sash everywhere and stocking the car with inventory at all times because — as she explained to her mother — encountering potential customers without have cookies available would be “rude!” This year, as an 8-year-old Brownie Girl Scout, the young entrepreneur is hoping to set a new personal best.
To ensure the safety of Girl Scouts and cookie buyers alike, troops are following the county health guidelines established to help reduce COVID-19 transmissions. Therefore, Lily and other Girl Scouts are approaching the cookie program a bit differently this year, using both time-honored and innovative techniques in a socially-distanced manner to provide a contactless cookie experience.
Girls are dropping flyers and door-hangers outside homes in their neighborhoods, a classic way to market their wares. They are also putting their tech badge skills to good use with digital marketing, ordering, and payment acceptance. Digital Cookie is an order taking website and app that helps Girl Scouts safely and effectively manage their cookie businesses online. Customers can opt for direct delivery by FedEx or USPS. In some cases, girls will provide contactless delivery by dropping off orders at doorsteps or creating a safe pick-up point.
Cookie fans who know a Girl Scout can ask her for an invitation to her secure and personalized Digital Cookie site. Otherwise, they can visit www.sdgirlscouts.org/cookies where, beginning Feb. 1, they can download a Cookie Finder app.
Nicole Ries says that La Mesa residents “are very welcoming and supportive of Girl Scouts. Surfrider Pizza, the Joann store, and many other fantastic businesses graciously host cookie booths for our local troops.” Booth sales are not permitted at this time, as the county is in the purple risk level.
Customers have a brand-new option this year. A national partnership that begins in February will allow people to order and pay for cookies through Grubhub’s website or app. Girl Scouts will gain hands-on experience, “learning and utilizing e-commerce technology as they use Grubhub’s back-end technology to track orders and manage inventory,” said Carol M. Dedrich, chief executive officer of Girl Scouts San Diego.
In addition to raising operating revenue, the cookie program also helps Girl Scouts develop these five skills essential to their own leadership and success in life: setting goals, decision-making, money management, people skills and business ethics.
All net cookie proceeds stay in San Diego to fund local programs, activities, and the financial assistance that helps all girls participate. Troops fund activities like field trips, summer camps, membership dues, and service projects with cookie money. Lily and her troopmates who became Brownies this year are proud that their new uniforms were purchased with a portion of their 2020 cookie money.
Many San Diegans opt to donate cookies through ‘Operation Thin Mint,’ a program that sends “a taste of home and a note to show we care” to deployed U.S. service members and local veterans. Since it originated 20 years ago, military personnel serving our country in places like Iraq, Korea, Diego Garcia, and the Arctic Circle have received over 3.25 million packages of America’s favorite cookies. Nicole noted that La Mesans are particularly generous about donating Operation Thin Mint cookies.
— Mary Doyle writes on behalf of Girl Scouts San Diego.