Essays, Feminism, Food, Gender

Mom’N’Pop Culture: Girl Scouts Are More Than Just Cookies

I missed my usual Mom’N’Pop Culture post at the beginning of the month, and I’m going to blame the cookies. Thin Mints, Samoas, Tagalongs, Dos-si-dos, and about four other varieties of cookies peddled by little girls wearing adorable, sometimes toothless smiles, and patch-covered vests, are to blame for every missed deadline over the past two months.

The Girl Scout Cookies have arrived

The Girl Scout Cookies have arrived!

This is my second year as my daughter’s Girl Scout troop’s cookie mom. I pick up cookies. I house hundreds of cookies. I deliver cookies. I set up cookie booths. I stand at cookie booths. I handle all the funds. And almost every minute of it makes me miserable. So why do I do it? Come on, you know why I do it.

It’s all about the payoff. On a national level, it’s the biggest fundraiser for Girl Scouts. The money raised is used to fund activities, supplies, maintain camps, and provide scholarships for the many different Girl Scout council areas. And within the troop, it really does give our girls a chance to bond together and create achievable goals.

The girls in our troop are focusing on their Philanthropy Badge this year. Together they’ve watched The Little Red Wagon, a story about a boy from our state who organized donation collections and a charity walk for the homeless. Our mom volunteer talked with the girls about famous women philanthropists. The girls recognized faces and names such as Taylor Swift, Beyonce, and Oprah. We chatted a little about what it means to be a philanthropist, and then the girls were given an assignment to choose one woman philanthropist and give a small presentation to the other girls. While it was easy to recognize the star power philanthropists, I steered my daughter toward some names she’d never heard before. Women like Margaret “Molly” Brown, a socialite who survived the sinking of the Titanic and was awarded the French Legion of Honour for her work with American and French soldiers during World War I. Or even Dame Elisabeth Murdoch or Diana, Princess of Wales, whose achievements are too numerous to list in one article. I helped her settle on Princess Diana for her one minute presentation and focused on Diana’s work with Centrepoint, an organization which provides assistance to the homeless from ages 16 through 25.

Our girls got a great lesson on how to contribute time, as well as money, to charitable organizations. And then they put their knowledge to practical use. With their cookie money earned from last year, they donated 200 pounds of rice to a local food bank. Not only did they deliver the rice to the food bank, they were required to separate the rice for individual families. They toured the facilities and got a better understanding of how every donation helps those in need. With this year’s cookie money they are donating to, and working at, RVR Horse Rescue. They are baking for our local police and fire rescue officers. And they are hoping to donate funds to a rare disease organization. Kind of blows your mind, doesn’t it?

I’d expect nothing less when the founder of Girl Scouts, Juliette Gordon Low (1820-1927), is rumored to have sold a strand of pearls her late husband gifted to her to fund her program for girls.

…Juliette broke the conventions of the time—reaching across class, cultural, and ethnic boundaries to ensure all girls, including those with so-called disabilities, had a place to grow and develop their leadership skills.

Girl Scout banner provided via email to parents for use to promo international women's day

Our Girl Scouts really are more than just about the cookies. They are learning to make a difference in their community. And while this can certainly be done on an individual level, as a group, they are learning that democracy sometimes means not getting their way. The girls vote on everything they do, and trust me, this is the perfect political climate to compare to how the world works versus how we’d like it to work.

When I was younger, Girl Scouts was camping and making vases for Mother’s Day. Today, depending on the council area you belong to, your girl can sign up for Zombie Apocalypse Training (wilderness training) or even Basic Comic Book art classes. While my daughter hasn’t been the age level for either of these yet, I’m bouncing in my desk chair to get her signed up for them next year.

I never really knew any girls who stayed in Girl Scouts beyond elementary, but now that I’m paying attention, I’ve found a few stories of women whose lives have been shaped by Girl Scouts. One of which is by Girl Scout Alum and author Edith Maxwell who uses words like “independence” and “feminism” to describe her experiences.

Words I know I want my daughter to have in her vocabulary. And even more than the monetary payoff for our troop, I have to remind myself this is why I do it.

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  1. Wendy Browne

    March 25, 2016 at 3:14 pm

    We’ve got Girl Guides here in Canada and I love them. My daughters have been going no-stop with some amazing activities both in and out of their regular meetings. I was never involved in Guides when I was young but I’m glad I’ve got my girls going in this.

    The cookies really are a big thing though! Our spring orders are late and I’ve already got people clamouring for them. We don’t have the variety you do though.

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