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E. Washington, N. Idaho Girl Scouts poised to commence cookie sales; making alternative plans

Girl Scouts Maggie Moore, 10, left, and Rachel Gray, 11, of Troop 4016, chat with a customer while selling Girl Scout cookies on Jan. 11, 2020, at Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts in Rocky Mount, N.C. Girl Scout councils in other parts of the country have already finished their sale, but the Girl Scouts of Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho have not started theirs due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Alan Campbell / Associated Press)
Girl Scouts Maggie Moore, 10, left, and Rachel Gray, 11, of Troop 4016, chat with a customer while selling Girl Scout cookies on Jan. 11, 2020, at Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts in Rocky Mount, N.C. Girl Scout councils in other parts of the country have already finished their sale, but the Girl Scouts of Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho have not started theirs due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Alan Campbell / Associated Press)

Hundreds of thousands of boxes of Thin Mints, Tagalongs, Samoas and other popular cookies are sitting in warehouses as the Girl Scouts of Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho council considers when and how to move forward with its annual cookie sale.

“This is unprecedented,” said CEO Brian Newberry. “We are just in a really, really challenging place right now.”

Local Girl Scouts were getting ready to launch their cookie sales in March when things began shutting down because of the COVID-19 pandemic, though Girl Scout councils in other parts of the country had already finished their sale. “We’re one of the five councils that hadn’t done their cookie sales when this hit,” Newberry said.

Last year the Girl Scouts of Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho sold over 800,000 boxes of cookies. The goal was to sell 900,000 boxes this year. In this area, the chocolate varieties are a big hit, with Thin Mints and Samoas the most popular.

“We ordered those cookies,” Newberry said. “All those cookies showed up.”

When a box of cookies is sold, a portion of the proceeds is sent to the Scout’s troop for activities that can include trips. Some goes to the baker and a portion goes to the local conference, where it pays for Girl Scouts programs. None of it is sent to Girl Scouts headquarters.

Girls receive incentives to sell cookies, and older Scouts can earn college scholarships based on the volume of cookies they sell.

“When you buy a box of cookies, you’re helping that girl right in front of you,” he said.

Newberry said the local Girl Scouts organization receives 70% of its funding from cookie sales. “Cookie sales are absolutely critical for us,” he said.

Renee Smock, Chief Mission Delivery Officer for the local conference, said one Girl Scout in Post Falls sold 7,000 boxes of cookies last year and was hoping to top that this year. She’s doing her best to keep going and has sold 3,000 boxes so far, but it’s been slow.

“She’s a real hard worker,” Smock said. “She has a ton of repeat customers. She has businesses she visits every year.”

Each of the 2,400 Girl Scouts has an individualized webpage that people can use to submit an order, which is effective for girls who can get the word out about their page. But many girls set up a table in front of local grocery stores and sell their cookies that way and that method of selling is on hold. Newberry said he’s monitoring local health conditions and hopes that cookie sales will be able to resume at some point this summer.

“Hope comes in the form of a Thin Mint,” Newberry said. “We hope that cookies are on the way if health conditions and the safety of the girls permits.”

An added complication is that Washington and Idaho have different rules about what is and isn’t allowed during the pandemic, and Newberry said he wants to make sure all the rules are followed and the Scouts are kept safe.

Smock said the Girl Scouts organization has been working to find ways of doing contactless delivery and contactless cookie sales.

“Girl Scouts are incredibly innovative,” she said. “I think we are really looking for creative and innovative solutions.”

Right now it’s just a matter of waiting for restrictions to ease, Smock said. “At this point in time we’re hoping the community will be just a bit more patient with us,” she said.

Though so much is still uncertain, Newberry is still hoping for a positive outcome – and empty warehouses.

“Our theme for this year was ‘Dare to Soar,’ and I think we had our wings clipped,” he said. “I am hopeful our girls will be able to fly again.”

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