Girl Scouts learn business, life skills one box of goodies at a time

Emily Wulff, loading Thin Mints.



Girl Scout with Troop 42, Anna Worrall-Wilk, loading Thin Mints.



Troop #42 leader Rachel Terlouw and her daughter and Girl Scout Mikayle Terlouw counting cookies.



Leader Rachael Terlouw, left, points out that it’s the 35th anniversary of the Samoan cookies, while Troop 42 scouts Emily Wulff, dressed as a Samoan, and Francesca Lujan, dressed as a Thin Mint, call out to passersby that they area selling Girl Scout cookies in front of the doors at Wal-Mart on Rimrock Avenue. Manning the till in a more usual Girl Scout uniform is Mikayla Terlouw.



Troop 42 leader Rachael Terlouw, second from left, watches Emily Wulff and Francesca Lujan, right, jump up and down in cookie outfits to keep warm while Girl Scout Mikayla Terlouw, left, keeps an eye out for customers as the girl scouts sell cookies outside of the doors to Wal-Mart, 2545 Rimrock Ave.



Mikayle Terlouw going door to door selling Girl Scout cookies.



QUICKREAD

BUY A BOX

Girl Scout Troop 42 will be selling cookies from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.  March 5 at the Rimrock Wal-Mart west door and from noon–6 p.m. March 5 at the City Market on 24 Road. Also, they’ll be at the Rimrock Wal-Mart east door from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. March 6, the last day of cookie sales.

For information about Girl Scout cookies, go to http://www.girlscoutsof colorado.org, http://www.girlscouts.org or http://www.girlscoutcookies.org, or call 242-4461.An Early Girl Scout Cookie Recipe

1 cup butter

1 cup sugar, plus additional amount for topping (optional)

2 eggs

2 tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

Cream butter and the cup of sugar; add well-beaten eggs, then milk, vanilla, flour, salt, and baking powder. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Roll dough, cut into trefoil shapes, and sprinkle sugar on top, if desired. Bake in a quick oven (375 degrees) for approximately 8–10 minutes or until the edges begin to brown. Makes 6–7 dozen cookies.



Knock-knock-knock.

The door to townhouse No. 1 opened about a foot and an older man’s face appeared in the space. He warily asked, “Yes?”

“Hi, my name is Anna, I’m with Girl Scout Troop 42. Would you like to buy some Girl Scout cookies?”

He shook his head. Oh, no. No, no. “We’ve got sickness here right now. We can’t talk.”

“OK, thank…,” Anna Worrall-Wilk said, the door closing on her “you.”

The 12-year-old shrugged and moved on to townhouse No. 2.

Knock-knock-knock.

No answer. At No. 3, a human-shaped shadow moved past the glass in the front door, but didn’t open it. Closed doors at No. 4 and No. 5. Undaunted, Anna walked with springy steps down the road to the single-family homes in the Redlands neighborhood she was canvassing. It was a sunny January Saturday. Cookie sales had opened the day before and the only cloud over Anna’s head was the thought that another Girl Scout — maybe a homeschooled girl with a more flexible schedule? — had already made her sales pitch at these homes.

Knock-knock-knock.

“Hi, my name is Anna, I’m with Girl Scout Troop 42. Would you like to buy some Girl Scout cookies?”

The woman at the door was kind: “Oh, thanks, honey, but I already ordered some.”

Free from the weight of adult cynicism — the eye-rolling, skeptical, “oh, sure, you gave at the office” kind — Anna smiled and said thanks, returning down the driveway with a mild “darn it” because presumably, some intrepid Girl Scout already had made the rounds. But there were a lot more houses, and she was resolute.

Knock-knock-knock.

‘IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT COOKIES’

The point of these cookies, at least this year and next, is Hawaii. The girls of Troop 42 originally considered New York City and Orlando, too, but why not dream big? And these dreams are fueled by Thin Mints.

Ever since the Mistletoe Troop in Muskogee, Okla., first sold cookies as a fundraiser in December 1917, Girl Scout cookies have become not only a cultural icon, but a vehicle by which millions of girls have learned to set goals and make decisions, to manage money and establish business ethics, and to navigate the labyrinth of human interaction.

“It’s not just about cookies,” explained Rachael TerLouw, leader of Troop 42. “The girls learn important life skills from working together as a troop, from going door-to-door, doing booth sales.”

Girl Scout cookie sales, nationwide, begin in January and continue through early March with booth sales outside stores and businesses. But as the major annual fundraiser for every troop, it’s something they discuss year-round. The girls and their leaders talk about sales strategies and set sales goals. They scrutinize maps of their communities to consider where they might try selling and review information about each type of cookie, anticipating possible customer questions: Thin Mints are the best-sellers. Samoas are celebrating their 35th anniversary this year. Trefoils, Thin Mints, Samoas and Thank U Berry Munches contain no nuts and have no contact with nuts.

And, as a troop, they decide what they want to do with their earnings. About 25 percent of cookie sales goes to the baker, said Cindi Graves, community relations manager for the Girl Scouts of Colorado Western Slope Service Center. Fifty-five percent goes to the state organization for statewide distribution. Each troop nets 17 percent of its total cookie sales, and the final 3 percent is used for girl recognition, Graves said.

Which brings us to Hawaii. Last year, Troop 42 was talking about goals and they decided to make a goal of taking a big trip in 2012. New York City? That could be cool. Orlando? DisneyWorld might be awesome. But then someone suggested Hawaii and immediately the five girls of Troop 42 were consumed with visions of white sand beaches, palm trees and frolicking dolphins.

Hawaii! They’d go to Hawaii!

OK, TerLouw replied, let’s go to Hawaii. But what will it take, as a troop, to get each girl to Hawaii? Motivated into a frenzy of research, the girls returned to each Tuesday night meeting with new numbers and new ideas.

They’d have to raise about $2,240 per girl. They’d need plane and hotel reservations. They’d need to know what to do and where to go once they landed on Oahu. Each girl created an individual tracker to chart her progress toward Hawaii.

But first, the cookies. They have other fundraisers throughout the year, but the annual cookie sale is their biggest.

They’d need to sell the heck out of those cookies, this year and next.

‘WE DO NOT SELL ALONE’

“OK, remember, no early sales,” TerLouw reminded the girls at their Jan. 4 meeting. “Don’t take any orders ‘til Friday.”

The five girls of Troop 42 were seated, with their mothers, around a U of tables at the Girl Scouts of Colorado Western Slope Service Center: Sarah Erskine, 13, the accomplished achiever. Mikayla TerLouw, 12, the sunshine. Emily Wulff, 13, the light-hearted joker.  Francesca Lujan, 13, the shy surprise. Anna Worrall-Wilk, 12, the creative spark. They’re led by Rachael TerLouw and Sharmin Erskine, and they never detour so far down the side paths of jokes and random stories that they can’t quickly return to the task at hand.

Or, rather, to cookies.

“Remember,” Rachael said, “we do not sell alone. If we go door-to-door, we go with someone. And we do not go inside. Also, there’s no need to give out your last name or your phone number.”

What about Facebook, Emily asked. Can they post information about cookie sales on their Facebook pages?

“Sure!” Rachael said. “That’s a good idea. But remember, that doesn’t constitute an official sale. Now, let’s go around and set our individual goals. You want to set a goal that’s attainable, OK? All right, Sarah?”

“A thousand boxes,” she replied.

“How many did you sell last year?” Rachael asked.

“I usually sell 700-ish.”

“OK, that’s a good goal. Mikayla?”

“Seven hundred boxes,” Mikayla answered, and Rachael nodded. They share a mother-daughter cookie connection.

“Francesca?” Rachael continued.

“Four hundred boxes.”

“Great. Anna?”

“Five hundred to 600 boxes.”

“How many did you sell last year?” Rachael asked.

“Five hundred. So, I think I can sell at least that many,” Anna told her.

“Absolutely. Emily?”

“I think 400 to 500 boxes. I talked about it with my mom and she says it’s OK.”

Individual goals set, they moved on to the donated boxes of cookies. Each year, every troop chooses a local charity or organization to which customers can donate boxes of cookies if they don’t want to keep the cookies for themselves. In previous years, Troop 42 gave the donated cookies to Hilltop Community Resources’ Latimer House. This year, they talk about sending the cookies to soldiers overseas through Blue Star Mothers.

“So, do you want to do the soldiers?” Rachael asked. “For Hometown Heroes?”

“I already wrote it down,” Mikayla said, indicating her sales sheet. “In pen.”

Fortunately, the troop voted to send their donated cookies to the soldiers. All that was left to do, then, was talk up the cookies among their family and friends, as any good salesgirl would do.

“You can’t sell until Friday (Jan. 7),” Rachael reminded them, “but you can let people know that the cookies are coming.”

‘THEY’RE $3.50 A BOX’

“Where are they?” the man asked. He stood in the doorway of his Redlands home, smiling down at Anna and glancing behind her to spot possible hidden cookies.

“Oh, well, I have this order form today,” she explained, offering it for his inspection, “and then I’ll deliver them around February 14th.”

“I think I’ll just pick them up in front of City Market,” he told her, and she nodded in understanding. It’s not always easy to get excited about the idea of cookies, and Rachael said the troop usually has its most success selling cookies at tables set up in front of entrances to City Market, Wal-Mart and other stores.

Anna tried again at the next house, but nobody answered. At the next house, the man who answered the door told her, “I don’t think so. I’m 96 years old.”

And then, success! A woman who was leisurely taking down her Christmas tree and listening to Barbara Streisand bought three boxes: one for herself and two for the soldiers. Then, a few houses down, a sleepy man who answered the door responded to Anna’s pitch with, “Um, depends how much they are.”

“They’re $3.50 a box,” she told him.

“Um, OK, how about a box of Thin Mints?”

At the next house, the woman who answered the door told Anna she used to be a Girl Scout leader and strong-armed her boyfriend into buying several boxes.

Anna was one of a legion of Girl Scouts taking to the sidewalks and knocking on doors, wielding an order form and praising the virtues of Tagalongs and Do-Si-Dos.

In the weeks after the Jan. 7 starting date of cookie sales, girls flooded into their parents’ workplaces, tucked their order forms into their backpacks should friends or teachers feel cookie-inclined at school that day, and remained on high alert should anyone they encounter seem like they needed cookies.

But the true experience of selling cookies, the one that builds character and forces girls from their shells, is the door-to-door-to-door.

Knock-knock-knock.

“Hi, my name is Anna, I’m with Girl Scout Troop 42. Would you like to buy some Girl Scout cookies?”

“Can I just donate $3?” the man at the door asked her. “I don’t want any cookies.”

While he went to find a pen, two suspicious-looking cats stared up at Anna through the glass door. They didn’t look like they wanted any cookies.

‘BUT I’M NOT DONE YET!’

Like anything else, Girl Scout cookies are subject to the vagaries of the economy. When it’s down, cookie sales drop, Rachael said. The girls acknowledged this fact at their Feb. 1 evening meeting at East Middle School.

“Let’s go around and see how you did on cookie orders,” Rachael said. The girls, seated around a table in the cafeteria and nibbling cupcakes, sighed.

“I didn’t do very good this year,” Sarah admitted. “I’ve sold 376 boxes so far, from a lot of places. Sometimes people just don’t want to buy cookies.”

The other girls nodded in agreement. It’s a cold economic fact, but one best learned young.

“I’ve sold 95,” Francesca said. “My friend’s mom was going to take me to her office, but we decided to go on Friday afternoon, which is really kind of dumb. Nobody was there.”

Emily heaved a big sigh before offering her sales total, “but I’m not done yet!”

“Remember, keep selling cookies,” Rachael told them. They planned their four weekends of booth sales and brainstormed creative ways to sell cookies at them. Wear cookie costumes? Create a birthday card for Samoas that people could autograph? Make signs?

“I have learned that you should never wear high tops, skinny jeans or hoodies at booth sales,” Anna offered. “People might think you’re, like, a teenage thug or something.”

On Feb. 14, they picked up their order from Northeast Christian Church, culling it from the 31,000 boxes ordered by the 15 troops in their service unit. They stacked the 209 cases — each containing 12 boxes of cookies — of their order into Rachael’s white minivan and her husband’s SUV. Ultimately, girls were holding cookies on their laps as they drove to the TerLouws’ house to unload the cookies in the garage.

‘WOULD YOU LIKE TO BUY SOME GIRL SCOUT COOKIES?’

Like the U.S. Postal Service, Girl Scouts will brave rain, snow, sleet and hail to sell cookies. If they’re midbooth sale and the weather turns rotten, they simply retreat beneath the cover of awnings or umbrellas.

On the afternoon of Feb. 19, outside the east entrance of the Rimrock Wal-Mart, half of Troop 42 arranged and rearranged brilliant boxes of cookies on a festive table. The other half of the troop was outside the City Market at 200 Rood Ave. Occasional light rain moved them back and forth several feet, seeking cover.

“Would you like to buy some Girl Scout cookies?” Anna asked a woman exiting the store.

“I was wondering when you guys were going to set up the stand,” the woman said, pulling out $10.50 for two boxes of Thin Mints and a box of Tagalongs. “I hadn’t seen you.”

Another woman stopped in front of the table with her cart, pulled out her cell phone and asked the person on the other end, “What were those Girl Scout cookies you liked?”

A woman with a full cart bought a box of Thin Mints, handing Sarah $40 and waving off her change. “I want the rest to go to the soldiers,” she said. Earlier, a man who told the girls he’s diabetic gave them $3.50 and told them to give a box of cookies to the next child who approaches the table.

Shifts at booth sales are long, but the interactions are sweet. People reveal themselves to be kind and generous, and even when saying, “No, thank you,” make an effort to be nice about it. There’s something wonderful and earnest about a fresh-faced Girl Scout, clad in a vest adorned with all the patches she’s earned, fueled by goals and the mantle of leadership, offering the thing that few people can deny loving.

“Would you like to buy some Girl Scout cookies?”


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