It’s been a long year, and with everyone spending more time at home, your Girl Scout cookies probably disappeared last faster than a ninja. That emergency box of Thin Mints you stashed in the freezer? Gone! The good news is your local Girl Scouts are out selling cookies!
Carrie Novy, Girl Scout leader and cookie coordinator for the Milbank service area, says 40 of the 52 Milbank scouts are selling cookies this year. The girls go door to door, and you can find scouts manning booths at Runnings, Food N Fuel, and The Coffee Cup in Summit on weekends. But hurry! Cookie sales conclude on March 22.The cost of a box of cookies can vary around the country as prices are determined by regional councils. Milbank’s prices are set by the Dakota Horizons Council, which includes 8,700 girls in South and North Dakota, Minnesota, and Iowa. Novy says most of the flavors sell for five dollars, but two specialty cookies, S’mores and gluten free Toffee Tastics, cost six dollars.
Novy guesses the most popular flavor in our area is a tie between Samoas and Tagalongs. Nationally, Thin Mints comprise 25 percent of sales, followed by Samoas and Tagalongs. According to Fortune, about 200 million boxes of Girl Scout cookies are sold in the US every year.The options change, but three staples are required —Thin Mints, Do-si-dos (peanut butter sandwiches), and Trefoils (shortbread). If you are confused when the cookies are called by two names, you aren’t alone. It’s just part of their history. The cookies were first made in 1917 in Muskogee, Oklahoma. The Mistletoe troop devised a small project to sell sugar cookies in their school cafeteria. After the recipe was shared in the magazine American Girl in 1922, things started to heat up. When legendary baseball player Babe Ruth promoted the Girl Scout Million Cookie Drive during the 1924 World Series, the Girl Scouts scored a home run. By 1933, the cookies had grown to be so popular, they were baked commercially in dozens of bakeries around the country. Sales continued to grow, and the organization kept streamlining the process until now only two official bakeries remain — the ABC Bakers and the Little Brownie Bakers. The ABC Bakers uses one set of names such as Caramel deLites and the Little Brownie Bakers uses the set of names that includes Samoas. You get one or the other depending on which part of the country you live in. The two bakers’ recipes and ingredients differ, but they are essentially the same cookies. Although, taste tests revealed the Samoas are the more flavorful of the two. They scored higher by offering darker chocolate, heavier caramel, and more toasted coconut. The packages vary, too, but all the girls depicted on the boxes are actual Girl Scouts.
Last year, the Milbank service unit sold 11,377 boxes of cookies, and Novy says, “We are on track to meet or beat that this year. A minimum of 65 cents per box stays right here in Milbank with the potential for it to be 75 cents if certain goals are met. The rest stays with the Dakota Horizons Council.” GSUSA confirmed none of the money goes to the national organization.
The scouts also can earn badges whether you buy a box of Lemon-Ups or a mountain of Thin Mints. They receive a Participation badge when they sell 25 boxes, a Goal Getter badge at 325 boxes, and a Super Seller badge at 500. They earn a cookie techie patch when they sell 50 boxes using an online link or for selling cookies at a booth. They can also earn an Entrepreneur pin. Novy says the pins are designed for families to earn together as Girl Scouts, especially the younger ones, rely on family members to help them sell cookies.
Novy estimates a Milbank Girl Scout sells between 100 and 200 boxes each year. “But,” she says, “we have had a few go-getters. In 2020, our top salesperson was Kennedi Sayler. She sold 1266 boxes. Lydiah Novy followed with 773 boxes and Lydia Gall with 530.” Last year, some of the Girl Scouts partnered with several businesses to treat first responders to cookies. This year, Lydia Gall worked with Valley Queen to give one box to every employee in the Milbank School District.
The Milbank troops usually spend their portion of the proceeds on a special activity such as horseback riding, a camp out, or a field trip. They also use the funds to purchase supplies for activities or pay for swimming, bowling, archery, or day camps. Brooklyn Wittrock says she wasn’t able to go to Girl Scout camp last year because of Covid and hopes to earn Dakota Dough selling cookies so she can attend this summer. Girls Scouts usually have a good time, but they also complete service projects. Last year, they helped make meatballs and cookies for the Jackson and Caitlyn Graf family benefit and cleaned up trash in local parks. The Senior and Ambassador scouts are working on a project now to make baby blankets for hospitals
“I believe our numbers are growing because the girls are having fun and want to share it with more of their friends,” Novy says. “I also believe it is a great program with little cost to families.In 2018-2019, we had about 25 girls. In 2019-2020, we jumped to almost 75 girls. We dropped down a bit this year due to the uncertainty associated with Covid, but I expect numbers to move up again as we are able to do more activities together.”
This week, March 8-12, the entire country is celebrating Girl Scout Week. Milbank troops host a birthday party to honor the founder of the Girl Scouts —Juliette Gordon Low — and the scouts wear their uniforms to school and church to raise awareness for the program. Everyone is welcome to join the celebration, though. Just pick up a box of Samoas or S’mores, open, and enjoy. Novy says she is most tempted by the Tagalongs — the chocolate-covered cookie with a creamy, peanut butter center. But this is a celebration, so why not try them all? Don’t have your Girl Scout cookies yet? Let The Valley Express get your party started. Win a box of each of the eight flavors, including the new Toast-Yay variety not yet available in Milbank. Here’s how you win: 1. Like The Valley Express Facebook page, 2. Share the Facebook cookie post and 3. Comment on your favorite Girl Scout cookie. The winner will be announced on Friday, March 12-National Girl Scout Day!