For Girl Scout Troop 26026 leader Kathleen Alforque, 2021 will be only her second season selling cookies.
But this year, the pandemic will be a reality that her eight Brownies have to contend with. And while preorder sales already began in December, the Chicago mom of two is taking the cookie selling season slowly this time around.
“It’s definitely not going to be the same,” she said. “Last year we would sell in front of Trader Joe’s or Jewel-Osco. We would sell so many cookies because there’d be lots of people coming in and out of the grocery stores, but now, because they’re limiting the people going into grocery stores and all of that, there may not be too much of a crowd as before.”
The cookie season began with online preorders Dec. 14; cookie sales continue through March 22. According to Alforque, the season really gets going in February when cookie booths start popping up. Her daughter Alexis Alforque, 8, is looking forward to it.
“I like talking to people and telling them about the cookies and spending time with my troop friends while we sell,” she said.
As a newbie, Alexis sold 700 cookie boxes in 2020. This year, her goal is 1,400. Her website is live, complete with a video. Her mom is prepared to conduct cookie sales via outside booths or drive-thru pickups where customers stay in their cars as they pick up their purchases. The transactions could occur in businesses’ parking lots or in front of someone’s house to help the girls achieve their selling goals. Cookies can be shipped directly to a customer for a fee, but Scouts can also deliver cookies to a customer’s door for free.
“I’m OK with that because I know there’s ways to deliver safely — knock really quick, drop off the cookies on the porch and then step back 6 feet, so I’m not too worried about that,” Alforque said. “The biggest concern for me is are people still interested in them?”
Nancy Wright, CEO of Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana, said interest in Girl Scout cookies is there, especially during the pandemic — when normalcy has been upended.
“People are looking for that happiness, that joy that they remember growing up as a kid,” Wright said. “And Girl Scout cookies are a way for people to remember that happiness and that joy. Girl Scout cookies is a way to get to people’s hearts, and everybody needs to be refueled these days.”
Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana oversees 245 communities and serves 27,000 Scouts. According to Wright, that number was 45,000 before COVID-19. Wright understands that many families are being challenged during the pandemic, but she said those Scouts who have remained with the entrepreneurial organization use Girl Scouts as a support system.
“We’re bringing a lot of joy, not only to the girls but to the families as a whole,” she said. “After COVID-19 hit and the girls could no longer meet in person, we created virtual programming within three weeks, We are still engaging girls in programming, but it’s spilling over to the families and bringing the families together in new ways that we never anticipated.”
This being the first, full selling season amid the pandemic, Wright, a third-generation Girl Scout, isn’t worried that fewer Girl Scout numbers will mean fewer sales. Alforque thinks those Scouts who are selling cookies will probably sell more.
“We know the demand is there. It’s just how do we get them to them,” Wright said. “We have a pop-up map on our website ... a virtual map that will show you where girls are selling Girl Scout cookies. We’re making it so easy.
“When a girl sells a box of cookies, they’re learning the skills about being an entrepreneur. The girls set goals on how they’re going to use their cookie proceeds because the money supports the girls locally. So they set goals, whether they are saving to go on a trip or they’re doing a service project in their area. So I want to make sure that everybody who wants cookies gets them.”
Cookies won’t be in the hands of troops until February, Alforque said, but she’s ready to rally her troop for cookie selling.
“As soon as people see them, they’ll want to buy them,” she said.
“When you buy a box of Girl Scout cookies, you invest in the future of a girl,” she said. “And nothing is better than investing in hope, because our girls are leaders, and they’re tomorrow’s hope.”
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