Girls Scouts in Bozeman: More Than Cookies
Ramona Mead | Monday Feb. 1st, 2016
It’s that time again, time for one of the most beloved annual events in America: Girl Scout Cookie Sales! Starting February 5th, girls will be holding their pre-sales, with the beloved delicious cookies arriving at the end of March.
Everyone is familiar with Girl Scout cookies, but not many people know more about the organization. So before you binge on your favorites this year (Thin Mints for this writer), there’s a lot you should know about where your cookie dollars go and what you’re turning down when you say no to a Scout’s request to buy a box.
Judy Schofield and Jennifer McFarland have staffed the Bozeman office five days a week since it opened in May 2015. The first of its kind in Southwest Montana, the purpose of having a Girl Scout office is to provide support to Scouts and volunteers and to build relationships in the community, which will hopefully provide Scouts with support and educational opportunities.
Judy was a Girl Scouts volunteer for 15 years before she acquired her position as Community Development Manager in the Bozeman office. Jennifer’s role is as a Leadership Experience Manager, and she was a volunteer for 14 years before her current position. Both women have daughters who have grown up as Girl Scouts.
Girl Scouts of Montana and Wyoming is the largest council in the nation when it comes to area-- it encompasses 254,000 square miles! This title comes with its own unique set of challenges, according to Judy. There are great numbers of scouts who live in rural areas, and some who do not have daily access to the internet at home. The Bozeman Service Unit (which includes Scouts and volunteers) is the second largest in their council and is steadily growing. There are currently 262 Girl Scouts in Bozeman alone, up from 181 at this time last year.
Nine year old Martha Aloise moved to Bozeman from Boston with her family in 2014. Because she had attended a Girl Scout camp once in Massachusetts and loved it, one of her priorities upon moving to a smaller community was to join a Girl Scout troop. This is Martha’s second year in a troop in Bozeman and she looks forward to every meeting. When asked what she likes most about being a Scout, she lists making friends who go to different schools and learning new skills. She describes her bi-weekly troop meetings as “lots of fun” as she shows off her green vest with pride, pointing out the patches she has earned completing tasks and meeting goals. Like many girls her age, Martha loves animals. With enthusiasm, she describes her troop’s field trip to West Paw Design where they learned how dog toys are made.
Martha’s mom, Holly, stresses that Girl Scouts has been nothing but a positive experience for her fourth grader. She cites cookie sales in particular as an experience with noticeable positive benefits for the girls. She says it gives Martha an opportunity to practice having conversations with adults, learning to make eye contact and speaking politely. She also notes that it is a strong lesson in business ethics because while the girls receive their cookie pre-sale materials prior to the official start date, they are instructed it is against the rules to take any orders until that date. Holly thinks it could be tempting for Martha to want to get a head start on sales, but she knows it would be unethical and so she is able to wait.
It’s not only current Girl Scouts who reap the benefits of the organization’s teachings. When Alexis Hyyppa moved to Bozeman six years ago, she was looking for an organization she could volunteer with to give back to the community. She made a friend who was already involved with the Girl Scouts in Bozeman and since Alexis grew up as a Scout, she saw it as a perfect opportunity to give back to the organization. She began as a troop co-leader then to Service Unit Leadership and is now a manager. Hyyppa has worked in sales her entire life and says she has long attributed her professional success to both her mom and her experiences in the Girl Scouts!
When asked what they would like the Bozeman community to know about Girl Scouts, Alexis, Judy and Jennifer all stress that the organization is run almost completely by volunteers and they are always in need of more. They state there are more girls in Bozeman interested in being a Girl Scout than they are volunteers to lead them.
Being a volunteer does not mean you have to lead a troop or even make a regular time commitment. Of course they would always welcome troop leaders (it takes two non-related adults to lead a troop of 10-12 girls) but they also use volunteers for specific events, like the popular summer day camp, or sorting cookies when they are delivered. Because most of the patches Scouts earn are based on learning new skills/knowledge, the organization is always looking for places willing to give troops tours on a field trip or anyone with a passion they’d like to share, such as knitting. It’s also important to note that you do not need to be a parent to volunteer with the Girl Scouts, nor do you need to be a “girl.” Men are welcome to volunteer as well and there are many local Dads who do!
The organization is always looking for opportunities to give back to the community as well. The girls are taught the value of time and service by volunteering at other non-profit organizations.
When it comes to cookie sales, Judy has one request for the public: Please don’t say no. Each troop and each individual girl has set goals for what they want to accomplish in the coming year and the cookie sales are how they do that. The women in leadership encourage you to ask the girls about their goals and how they plan to meet them. When you say no, even if you’ve bought from a different Scout, you are denying that troop an opportunity to achieve their goal.
If you honestly cannot buy, the girls are kind and understanding. What they don’t appreciate, however are excuses. If your response to their request is that you’re on a diet or you don’t eat sugar, that’s not considered a valid reason to not donate. Boxes of cookies can be purchased and donated to the troop, and they will later be sent to nursing homes, Meals on Wheels Programs or the Cancer Support Community. According to Judy and Jennifer, Thin Mints are donated to cancer patients because their flavor has been proven to be one of the few tastes cancer patients can enjoy.
Girl Scouts learn real life skills during cookie season, such as planning and counting change, but also perseverance and communication. Standing outside a grocery store in the cold, asking strangers to buy cookies takes courage. Many girls attribute their skills learned during cookie season to their ability to find jobs when the time comes. Many of these girls later become leaders in our community.
Judy and Jennifer believe the largest misconception about Girl Scouts is where that cookie money goes. The majority of it goes back to the baker who made the cookies. Troops get 50-65 cents per box and another 1-3 cents per box goes back into the community for all Girl Scouts to enjoy events such as summer camp and to provide financial aid to girls who need it. There are many ways a girl can be involved in Scouts that do not involve joining a troop, and the leadership members want to do whatever they can to help any girl become involved who wants to.
Cookie pre-sales will run February 5th-28th. The cookies will arrive at the end of March, with girls selling at grocery stores in early April. Last year, 40,000 boxes of Girl Scout cookies were delivered to Bozeman. The organization expects that number to be higher this year because the number of girls enrolled has increased. Don’t miss your chance to get some by using the Girl Scouts Cookie Finder App!
If you are interested in more information about the Girl Scouts in our region, visit www.gsmw.org. If you’d like to learn about how you can volunteer your time, contact Judy Schofield here in Bozeman at 800-736-5243 ext. 2305 or firstname.lastname@example.org