‘I’m hopeful’: Area Girl Scouts tackle socially distant cookie sales

Troops turn to creative ways to pull off tasty tradition in time of pandemic

Ryley Keith, 11, of Wonder Lake carries a box of thin mints as she helps sort boxes of Girl Scout Cookies for her Girl Scout Cadette Troop #41680 at the Big Hollow Middle School parking lot in Ingleside.  (2/7/21)

ROUND LAKE – Unlike years past, Crystal Keith’s Girl Scout Troop didn’t set a specific goal for cookie sales this year.

Just too many unknowns, they decided, in a year of limitations and cancellations.

In the past, along with donating to the military, the food pantry and other area nonprofit organizations, they’ve used a portion of the cookie money sales for a fun outing.

“My girls did not set a goal as to what they want to do with their cookie money because they’re afraid they won’t be able to go if they choose something fun to do,” said Keith, who has led her troop of 11-year-olds from throughout the Round Lake area for the past seven years.

“They’re kids, and with the pandemic and everything, they’ve just been told no so much.”

Despite the challenges, the Girl Scouts aren’t giving up on their cookie sales this year. They’re simply selling the cookies through more socially distant and virtual methods.

Girl Scouts throughout the area are doing what many learn to do as Scouts. They’re innovating, adapting and staying positive.

“I’m hopeful,” said Crystal Keith’s daughter, 11-year-old Ryley, who would like to sell at least 1,000 boxes this year. She sports her own business cards and personally favors the Thin Mints. Her troop’s newest cookie addition is the Lemon-ups, which were added last year.

Ryley and four fellow Scouts in Round Lake Area Cadette Troop 41680 typically sell anywhere from 1,500 to 3,000 boxes a year. They’d like to be in that range again this year, Crystal Keith said.

“Virtually, it’s a little more difficult this year, but that’s to be expected with the pandemic and people struggling financially,” she said. “The cookies are very popular, so they sell themselves in a way. You hear Girl Scout cookies and people will literally come running.”

Keith’s troop is part of Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana, which oversees 245 communities and serves 27,000 Scouts. Through a national collaboration with Grubhub, GCNWI and Girl Scouts of the USA are offering contact-free pickup and deliveries this year.

Customers also have the option to have the cookies personally delivered by a local Girl Scout. At $5 a box, the money raised from the sale of cookies supports Girl Scout programming, which “believes in the power of every G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-Taker, Leader).”

“Despite the challenges of COVID-19, our troops and teams are creating new ways to engage girls in Girl Scouting,” Nancy Wright, CEO of Girl Scouts GCNWI, said in a statement. “In a year where everything looks different, people will savor the simple joy of eating their favorite Girl Scout cookies and smile knowing they are investing in the future of girls at this critical time.”

GCNWI has made online cookie ordering available so consumers who don’t know a Girl Scout can buy cookies from a local troop for direct shipment to their homes or donate to local organizations. To order, visit www.girlscoutsgcnwi.org/cookies and search by ZIP code.

Troops and individual Girl Scouts have their own online pages. Round Lake Area Cadette Troop 41680 can be found at https://digitalcookie.girlscouts.org/scout/troop41680-430. The troop has been selling cookies virtually since December.

Like other troops throughout the area, Keith’s troop recently picked up boxes of cookies and plans to start selling from booths at area retail locations this weekend. Girl Scout booth sales go through March 21.

The number of booths will be limited compared with previous years. Social-distancing restrictions will be in place.

Keith is keeping an open mind.

“We’re a little under where we would normally be this time of year,” she said. “People just may not be able to financially afford it, so we’re taking it step by step. I think overall it’s a little different this year because people don’t know what to expect. Typically, cookies sell really well, but with the crisis and the pandemic and everything … we’re keeping things very low-key and seeing how it goes.”

Keith initially became involved with Girl Scouts so her daughter could make friends and have something of her own. She soon discovered the program offered so much more. Along with selling cookies, the troop has created blankets for women and children in shelters, created cards for veterans, visited nursing homes and donated to many causes. They’ve taken part in so many fun and educational activities, Keith said.

“For seven years, I have had the privilege of being a part of these young girls’ lives and helping guide them,” she said.

For Ryley, the benefits are simple.

“It is fun, and I also get to make lots of friends,” she said. “I also like helping the community.”