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Eve Pearlman: What is 54,840?

Submitted by on 1, April 2, 2010 – 5:00 amNo Comment

Photo by Jan Watten

A couple of years ago on a mid-February afternoon with a heavy winter rain pounding against my windows, a seven-year-old Girl Scout named Gracie — from whom I’d already bought a couple of boxes of Thin Mints and Samoas — put her sweet face right up close to mine and said, “And would you like to send a box to a solider serving in Iraq?”

Girl Scouts selling their wares are, for many, an eagerly awaited part of Alameda life. Friends and neighbors and Saturday grocery shoppers can buy cookies for their own larders (many of us know how good Thin Mints are when they are frozen). Shoppers can also, through the Scouts’ “Gift of Caring” program, buy cookies for local food banks, the Red Cross, and soldiers serving overseas.

How could I say no to Gracie’s request? Then I instituted a household rule. Any time a bright-eyed little girl visited with a cookie order form in hand, each of my two children was authorized to buy one box of cookies.

It turns out Girl Scouts have been raising funds by selling cookies since as far back as 1917, five years after the organization was founded in Georgia by Juliette Gordon Low, with the progressive/girl-power aim to offer adventures and challenges and to teach life skills to young girls.

This one-box-per-child-per-scout method has worked well for me in part because my daughter usually opts for Samoas (my second favorite kind of cookie) and my son continues in his allegiance to Thin Mints (my favorite cookie). And while cookie consumption by children in our household is strictly regulated, as a grown up I can enjoy Samoas with coffee at my desk just about any time I like.

My family’s tastes mirror the majority: Thin Mints account for 25 percent of all Girl Scout cookies sold and Samoas for 19 percent. (Tagalongs are in third place at 13 percent.) Girl Scouts cookies are part of our family’s sweets calendar — our sugar consumption peaks in the weeks around Halloween, then again during the winter holidays and then a couple months later for Girl Scout cookies. And it’s not just us. Alameda Girl Scouts sold 54,840 boxes of cookies in 2010.

With all those cookies sold and delivered — 49 of Alameda’s 51 troops participated in this year’s sales — it should be no surprise that Alameda has an official Cookie Manager. Melanie Shannon (who is also a Brownie troop co-leader) says Girl Scouts were an important part of her life growing up and she is glad to share the experience with her oldest daughter, nine-year-old Carlin. Shannon particularly likes that the Girl Scouts, from the national level down to individual troops, put an emphasis on inclusiveness.

“Girl Scouts go to great lengths to include everyone,” Shannon said. “It’s central to what Girl Scouts are.” I for one like the idea that the Girl Scouts are democratic perhaps even more than I like Thin Mints.

Both Shannon, and Alameda scout mom Christine Strena, remember selling cookies when they were growing up. “I went door to door with my little brown vest,” said Strena. “And I remember feeling like I had a very important job.” Christine’s daughter, Sophia, who at 10 is a Junior Scout, says the hardest thing about doing booth sales — which is when girls sell cookies outside Starbucks or Nob Hill — is getting potential customers’ attention. “Sometimes we take Girl Scout songs and turn them into cookie songs,” Sophia said. “Like there’s a donut shop song and we turn it into a cookie shop song.”

When I asked an eight-year-old Brownie named Leah what she learned from selling cookies with her troop she said, “I learned I have a lot of confidence to go up to people and say, ‘Would you like to buy some Girl Scout cookies?’”

At my house, sad to say, I am already out of Thin Mints and down to my last box of Samoas. (I just finished my second to last box as I wrote this.) So soon I will be waiting patiently until next year — though, luckily, I do have candy corn to look forward to first.

Eve Pearlman offers her take on Alameda’s stories, big and small, every other Friday on The Island. Contact her at eve@theislandofalameda.com.

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