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At this point, after weeks of being around cookies and getting the money into the bank to pay for them, I thought it might be a good opportunity to remind you why you do so much work.   It is to have a lot of fun with your girls once the sale is over!

Glancing at some of what is on the spring calendar, it looks like a pretty good time to me.   This spring, we are again offering Night Moves in Mobile for older girls.   This is one of my favorite programs because the girls get to go to the Coast Guard base and see what they do there.   Last time we were there, they had gone out of their way to have all the women Coast Guard pilots come in for the program and bring their children.   It was a great way to show girls that you can have a great career in the Coast Guard and still have children.   Girls often get to climb in and out of the many aircraft in both hangers and meet the rescue swimmers.   It is a great program that shows off what careers happen at night.

Last year was the first time the Auburn University WISE (Women in Science and Engineering) group did a program for us called Pi Day.   This program received rave reviews and sounds like it will great again this year.   Girls participated in a large number of fun hands-on science experiments, making learn fun and exciting.   It is a great introduction to how STEM can be fun!

We have a new program in the Mobile area with Gulfquest, a new maritime museum.   It boasts many hands-on activities that teach about the Gulf Coast and the Mobile Tensaw Delta.   This is offered as an overnight. Gulfquest also has a wonderful view of Mobile Bay, where the boats and tugs go up and down to the state docks.

We have the Troy Kappa Delta Badge Day, another program that receives great reviews.   The KDs have been to us across the council footprint, but this is a wonderful opportunity for girls to interact with college coeds who are often role models.

At Scoutshire Woods, there's a day devoted to the It's Your Planet - Love It Journey.   There are all sorts of activities planned as part of that day.   One of my favorites is making bluebird houses.   I have long wanted to have bluebird houses put at all our camp properties, because bluebirds are hard to attract.   The program should be a great one.

There's an overnight camping trip to DeSoto Caverns, so you can test your spelunking skills. That's in Childersburg.   Another annual favorite is the overnight at the McWane Center in Birmingham.

Another of my favorite programs is the overnight at the Biscuits baseball stadium.   Just as a reminder, the staff members report that some parents get tangled up because they have not completed the background check, the link to that is http://girlscoutssa.org/volunteers/.

Thank you for all you do to make this endeavor a success - and be sure to enjoy the fruits of your labor in enjoying time with the girls at some of the wonderful events.

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It's cookie season, and we are grateful for the really great weather we had last weekend.   We had many reports of girls out and about selling cookies.   On my way out of the office door tonight, a car pulled up and the occupants wanted cookies.   I thought they were requesting an opportunity to pick up cookies, but they just wanted to buy two boxes of cookies because they were craving them.   We had the same thing happen last week in Dothan when someone wanted cookies mid-week and could not wait until the weekend to find a cookie booth.   Clearly, there's some pent up desire for cookies, and hopefully your girls will be able to meet the needs.

We have had some reports of locations that are especially particular about where girls are set up to sell.   Please comply with their wishes, since they don't have to allow us back and we want to cooperate with their hospitality.  Remember to check in with the manager and thank them for letting you be there.   To touch on professionalism, we thank folks even if they don't choose to buy.   We don't know their reasons, but need to respect their right to choose.   It is important to be an active cookie seller.   Having your ear buds in listening to music while the adults sell the cookies is not the type of girl entrepreneur image we want to present.   Being engaged and involved at a cookie booth is a great way to be part of a team.   I've seen some great photos of cookie drive-thrus from last weekend.   As always, if you have issues, concerns, suggestions, please send them to communications@girlscoutssa.org.

We have been working on the summer resident camp program.   We are delayed on that because we had to find a new partner to provide horses for our horse camp.   We are working with Riverside Ranch from Loxley.   We are delighted to have this new partner, the horses are coming to camp this year are beautiful.   Look for the camp program to be on our website shortly.   As always, selling lots of Girl Scout cookies is a great way to earn your way to summer camp.

We know you have been busy juggling cookies and dealing with collecting money from parents.   This is always a tricky proposition.   Each year, we have a troop leader who comes to us after the cookie program to admit there has been a delinquent parent in their troop.   It is someone they know, it is someone they trusted, but now they are in the hole financially and the troop's profit from the sale is gone because the parent owes that much.   As a reminder, we are always willing to assist with parents who are not paying.   We consider this theft from the girls in your troop.   If you have issues with this, please contact, Teri Eversole at teversole@girlscoutssa.org. Sooner is always preferable because it is important to minimize the damage.

Just a reminder please have the funds for the first part of your cookie payment in your troop account on February 10.  This ACH will be based upon all cookies picked up through February 3rd

Thank you for all you do with the cookie program.   We hope the girls are learning and having a great time!

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Bbbbrrrrrr, we are experiencing the El Nino, and the temperatures are dipping into unusual winter range for here.   Kudos to all of you who did show up at your booth sale or drive thru last weekend and sold cookies.   I've been enjoying the photos of girls on participating in Walkabout Weekend that are coming in.  They are always fun.

I want to give a quick an update from some of the chaos we have experienced.   We have been posting the new booth locations as they come in.   We have had fewer reports of issues seeing the entire booth scheduler, so we are hoping that is working better for everyone.   If not, please let us know.  We are working to address your frustrations as they arise, since selling cookies should be fun!   Also, let us know how the cookie drive-thrus are going. These are a new program for us this year, so we look forward to your feedback.

We brought in additional inventory in all cupboards, so we have plenty of cookies for you to pick up.   Simply put in your planned order and come to pull more cookies.   We are pretty close to getting ready to ping your bank account to see if our bank sees your account prior to the ACH withdrawal in February.   If you have not gotten your bank account information to Cheryl Miller, please do so.   If we have sent your troop an ACH in either direction, we probably have the right information for you.   We will ping your account, and then will work to give you a warning a day or before taking the funds your troop owes for the first part of the sale.

I haven't heard much talk about e-mails to others to purchase cookies.   Just a reminder, this is a very easy way for girls to learn about on-line marketing, and you don't have to touch the cookies, as they are mailed to the customer.   Last year, our online sale was .5% of our sale, while most councils grew their sale by 5% or 10 times more.   It's something to consider, and you can sell out of council with e-mails, so you can "guilt" the grandparents into purchasing cookies!   As a reminder, those e-mails cannot be forwarded, and the girls' information is protected in the software.

If you have a good story about your girls and cookies, we always love those.   We use many of your stories throughout our publications, so if you want to share, please send them to communications@girlscoutssa.org.

Thanks for all you do to make the cookie program a success. I'm grateful that the forecast for this coming weekend is more favorable for outdoor sales.   We hope your girls are learning for the world's largest entrepreneurial program.   Keep up the excellent work!

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Welcome to cookie chaos!   You would think, because we do this every year, we would simply get better at it each time we do it.   Well, we wish that were the case.   We do keep notes and make changes each year.  But, as we make these adjustments, things around us changes.   The software is tweaked, the staff changes, we have different folks in the warehouse, etc.   Those are but a few of the changes we're dealing with for 2016 cookies.


First, my apologies again for the IT glitches we encountered at the end of last week.   We had more issues cropping up than we could believe, and they were different in separate parts of the council.   One part of the council could only view one page of the cookie booths; some could not see any booths.   In the midst of trying to work our way out of issues with the baker, our phone system started acting up, so it was a complete mess. Rather than have some inequity in booth sign-ups, we decided to cap it where we were until we could work our way through the issues and address them.

 

We are one of the earliest councils to sell cookies (the "cookie season" runs from when we start through to April).   In this case, leading edge is sometimes bleeding edge.   We heard the GSUSA booth finder app wasn't completely working and there were issues with their cookie platform.  Our online cookie program remains with ABC Bakers, so we have not heard of issues on that.

We had to order all our gluten-free cookies early on (remember that deadline for Trios last Fall?) and commit to those cookies.   Because they are more expensive and have a different market, we do not over-order on those, so we are already out of gluten-free cookies.   However, they can still be purchased online from a girl, but we won't receive any additional gluten-free cookies in our service centers.

Thanks to all of you who did the Walkabout about over the weekend.   We heard great things about it from folks who were out there, and have received some fun photos that we will be posting to our Facebook page for our annual photo contest.   We are hoping for better weather as the cookie program continues.   It's not easy to be out there when the weather is cold, so our hats are off to you who were out and about!

The cookie drive-thrus are getting started this weekend, and we would appreciate your feedback on that endeavor. Please send comments and photos of your drive-thrus to communications@girlscoutssa.org.   We do track all your comments and discuss them during our frequent staff conversations.   At this point, those are almost daily because of the issues we have been addressing.

As always, we appreciate your professional attitudes, the great cookie outfits we have seen, and some really good advertising.   The creativity is wonderful and a tribute to all of you who have spent some thoughtful time with girls making it a fun and educational program!

Thanks for all you do to make this a learning experience.   Like you, we deal with cookies daily and hope you have some laughs along the way, because we certainly do on a regular basis.

January 15, 2016

 


We had some crumbled cookies today as we tried to upload the cookie booth scheduler.   Here are some of the issues, if you suffered from some of these please accept our apologies and let us know, if you have not done so already.

1.  We sent out a message at 9:30 a.m. via SNAP, but its server sent the message out at different times to avoid spam filters. Rather than real-time communication, it can be delayed.   Because of this, we will be using social media, field executives' email lists, Remind text messaging and SNAP to communicate going forward.

2.   We had 79 cookie booths listed in SNAP's booth schedule, while last yea, we had 148.   Thanks to many of you for getting the permission forms to your favorite booth location.   We can only upload those locations for which we have signed paperwork. The staff assures me this requires lots of diligence on your part.   If your favorite booth does not appear, please pester them and have them fax their form back to us at 251-344-4181.   We appreciate your assistance on this and will add new booths daily as we receive them.

3.   Because of the many glitches today, we are limiting troops to only signing up for 3 booth sales until we can work through some of the issues.   If, when you go to view the booths, you only see one page of possible booths, despite the fact you have scrolled up or down with the arrows, please send an e-mail to  afaulk@girlscoutssa.org.   Also, it would be helpful to know what your ISP (internet service provider, such as Comcast, Windstream, AT&T, etc.) is.

4.  To add insult to injury, our office phones started acting up after lunch.   We want to be responsive, especially as you are wrestling cookies and working to get booths scheduled.   If the phones don't pick up, which was one of many phone issues, please call Teri Eversole or Cheryl Miller's cell phones.

We are working hard to move through these glitches and will continue to do so over the weekend. If you have other cookie-related issues that we should be aware of,  please let us know at communications@girlscoutssa.org.

Thanks...liz brent

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Don't you just LOVE a drive through?   I have some favorite fast food places, but two don't have a drive through, and I have to admit, I don't go to them as often because I have to get out of the car and stand in line to get my food.   That might be the epitome of laziness, but convenience matters in today's busy world.

With this in mind, the staff has been working hard to develop cookie booth drive thrus.   They have been outlining the rules so we comply with our safety standards, but still provide an opportunity for those who want to purchase cookies, but who might not stop at some of the booth sites to get their always-desirable Girl Scout cookies.

We have purchased drive-thru kits with safety materials, such as signage, cones, and laminated menu cards so we assure everyone involved is safe.   The service unit managers will be managing those kits, and there's a $50 deposit for each kit, so we ensure that troops return what they borrow.

Sign up for the drive thru is on the booth scheduler.   We have selected sites that have larger parking lots, have good visibility, and easily can take the traffic in one direction only, again to assure everyone is safe.   Because this is our first year doing drive thrus, GSSA staff will be visiting some of the sites to be sure safety guidelines are followed.  Because we have carefully chosen sites, we are not authorizing drive thrus other than those available in the booth scheduler.  Please do not hold an independent drive thru this year.

 Meghan Cochrane and her public relations representatives will be highlighting the cookie drive thrus as one of the new initiatives of this year's cookie program.

We hope you will find this as an easy way for your girls to get out and sell cookies without the hassle of moving lots of cookies from cars.   We welcome your feedback on this both now and during the sale so we can work to improve it for the girls and you.   Comments can be sent to communications@girlscoutssa.org.  

The rules and notes about a cookie drive thru can be found on our Troop Cookie Chair Resouces page, or click here.

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Where does the time go?   It seems like just yesterday we were heralding in 2015, and now it is gone, and we are looking to 2016.   But that always gives rise to a sense of hope, the future, and new opportunities.

We had a good 2015 -- lots of positive things happened.   There's a new porch on the rec hall at Camp Scoutshire Woods.   The vegetation has been sprayed at Camp Sid Edmonds.   Sadly, we lost our ranger, Ed Smith, in 2015. What a guy he was.   There's an observatory now at Kamp Kiwanis.   There were more than 40 council programs with around 2,000 girls attending those programs.   Girls had FUN, they developed and honed their leadership skills, and they changed their world.

We look forward to an even better 2016.   We are not far from planting a loblolly pine plantation at Camp Sid Edmonds, happening in late January or early February.   We hope it grows and does as well as the pine plantation we have at Camp Humming Hills.   We welcome a new co-ranger, Tom Tindol, familiar with Camp Humming Hills, to work with Wanda Smith to assure all troops that visit have a great time there.   We continue to address the many issues at Camp Scoutshire Woods, working to return it to its pristine beauty.   Amanda Abercrombie will be moving to Kamp Kiwanis, so we have someone physically living on the property, and we are working on getting new horses for the summer camp program.   The horses we had been leasing are no longer available, but some new animals will arrive at camp for the girls to fall in love with.

The more important part about looking ahead to 2016 is all the wonderful things the girls of GSSA will learn.   The cookie program has some great new opportunities, selling cookies to friends and relatives that might not live in the GSSA turf.   We have some great new programs lined up for the girls at the council level.   We have an overnight at Gulfquest, the new facility on Mobile Bay.   There will be a repeat of the dolphin program that was a big hit last year in Gulfport.   There will be outdoor badge days, focusing on the new outdoor badges, at both Camp Scoutshire Woods and Kamp Kiwanis, an overnight at DeSoto caverns and again Pi Day at Auburn University.

We are looking forward with hope and expectation to a great 2016.

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'Tis the season of giving, that time of year when we think of others less fortunate than us and the feeling we get when we give to others.   

I spent some time this morning with two wonderful volunteers.   They took over a troop that had some issues and have been working diligently for a long time to do what is right for those girls.   They are focused on teaching their girls life skills.   They are very active, but the troop leaders are focused on the girls having a great experience, which hadn't always been the case with this particular troop.   What a wonderful gift for these two women to step up, take over a chaotic situation, work with angry parents, forge their way through issues they should not have had to deal with.   I am grateful for what they do for the girls they work with.

We have thousands of volunteers and parents who toil diligently to make the world a better place by investing their leisure time in girls.   They invest in our collective future.   They make sure girls are where they need to be early Saturday mornings.   They pick up trash, they clean up campsites, they sing to the elderly, or work at the food bank.   They have a lot of fun, but that investment takes time and effort.   

At this time of year when we are grateful for our many gifts, we are grateful for all you do to turn girls into tomorrow's leaders.   You might not see the fruit of your labors, but by planting these seeds of leadership, you are changing the world.

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Predicting how cookies will sell is much more of an art than a science.   That is true from your perspective and ours, and it is always good to be reminded of this, as we wind up as the aggregate of all of you.   We work to pay a lot of attention to how rapidly cookies are going out of our 10 warehouses.   The patterns change from year to year related to the weather, enthusiasm on the part of the girls to get out to booth sales, and whether we have lots of criticism of Girl Scouts, such as the orchestrated Planned Parenthood affront during 2014.

Just as a reminder, we do not give money to Planned Parenthood. We have no relationship with them and believe that topics related to those issues are best managed at home and within faith communities.   For the GSSA policy on this go to What GSSA Stands For on the GSSA website

Why do we want to encourage you to do pre-orders/planned orders?   Last year, GSSA was left with $40,000 in excess cookie inventory.   At the end of the sale, we are not able to sell that magnitude of cookies.   We gave them to our First Responders and military, which was a great thing, but all of that is at the expense of GSSA girls, so we really do care about having you give us your best guess for pre-orders.   We work hard to have cookies on hand in case you get caught and really need them.   However, this year we will be much more cautious on how much inventory we have on hand.   Losing that much in cookie revenue hurts all the girls of the council.   We order cookies on Sunday evening, for delivery to our larger pantries at the Mobile and Montgomery service centers on Monday and Tuesday.   If you can submit your order for the following week by Sunday evening that would be a great assistance to us.   We can only guess from one year to the next, but the more you tell us what is going on with your sale, the better we are at predicting what your needs will be in the aggregate.

We do close off pickups and deliveries while we are replenishing our larger warehouses.   It is simply too confusing to have cookies going in and out at the same time with two folks there counting.   If you think you count a lot, think how much we count with cookies moving sometimes twice a week.   We work to replenish our inventory only once a week but sometimes that simply doesn't fulfill your needs.   We always hope the delivery trucks arrive on Monday, but that does depend on the schedule and workload of delivery agents.

If you see new patterns, or experience new situations during the cookie program, please let us know.   One year we had some issues in a particular shopping center. After we had to contact the police, others who had issues shared they had experienced the same thing.   If someone bothers you and/or there are issues, please let us know.   We work hard to monitor all our media during the cookie program with increased vigilance.   You can contact us at any of the following addresses:   communications@girlscoutssa.org, teversole@girlscoutssa.org, cmiller@girlscoutssa.org, mcochrane@girlscoutssa.org.

 

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I heard a story this morning about someone who was no longer serving as the cookie chair and she was laughing about how she had done little to break in the new chair for that service unit.   She noted that person would be surprised at the amount of paperwork that arrives.   The point was she was glad to no longer serve in that role and wished her successor good luck.

We want to thank those of you who are brave and have the courage to step up and take on more leadership.   Serving as a troop leader can sometimes seem daunting.   But working to coordinate many troop leaders can sometimes be a challenge.   We appreciate all of you who are willing to take on that role and fulfill that need.   Without you we would not thrive and survive.   You are at the heart of how this organization works.

We all share in the chaos and challenges of the cookie program.   It is interesting, it is one of those activities where I hear story after story about girls who blossom doing something they didn't believe they could.   Many girls find their voice through the cookie program.   Others gain confidence to recognize they are entrepreneurs and can accomplish more than they imagined.   Some just learn a lot more about arithmetic and find that maybe making change is easier and more relevant than learning addition and multiplication.   It is hands-on, experiential learning that happens in a short span of time.   Ordering cookies and organizing how to get rid of them requires some leaps of faith.   How much to order, how to keep track of it, how to separate who sold what at booth sales.   All of it requires some time, thought, and attention.   But we are fortunate that some of you are willing to take on a larger role, to lead the leaders.   We are very grateful to you for all you do.   To make the cookie program a success, to assist your colleagues in what can feel overwhelming, and to change the world through girls.

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