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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.

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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.

Giving Tuesday

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December 1, 2015 is #GIVING TUESDAY. A global day dedicated to generosity and giving back. Many not-for-profits use this day to kick off year end giving campaigns to solicit donations to support our mission and keep our organizations functioning. If you haven't already contributed, or even if you have, we hope you will consider an investment in the girls of GSSA.  Please ask your family members, friends and coworkers to support our girls and join us in this Season of Giving. We have a new online giving platform that is safe and secure.  It's easy to donate. Click here to make a one-time donation or to join our new monthly giving program. Our monthly giving program is an affordable way to support Girl Scouts using an automatic ACH withdrawal from your checking or savings account, or with a monthly charge to your credit card.  You can also use our printable form and mail in your donation.

Every day I have the opportunity to see what a girl can do.  It is pretty amazing.  Last weekend, Evie, a second grader, spoke to the board of directors of GSSA about her Girl Scout experience.  Evie tried camp this year for the first time.  She wasn't sure about spending the night, so she went the day camp route, so she could go home each evening.  The first day she arrived in her cowboy boots.  It's camp, so we encourage them to dress in whatever they desire.  At the end of the day, when her mother picked Evie up she asked whether or not the boots were hot. She admitted they were. Evie was concerned about snakes, which is really a normal concern and one we see daily. But, after a day at camp seeing no snakes, she summoned the courage to wear cooler shoes.  Her experience at camp was so fun she decided to invest her own funds and return for a second week and stay overnight.  It isn't every second grader who confronts her fears, finds she has the courage to do and try lots of things.  Evie is also learning the meaning of philanthropy. She saved her allowance money from her chores to donate to a charity - she chose to invest her hard earned $5 in Girl Scouts!  We want to thank Evie, because investing in girls will reap dividends years from now. Please follow Evie's example and support our girls.

We want to encourage you to invest in girls and your community for the future.  What sounds like fun and learning, actually results in women who are contributors to their community.  Just a few fun facts about Girl Scouts:  For every 100 girls who join Girl Scouts - 8 will enter a vocation learned through a badge or patch program, 12 will have their first contact with a church, 1 will use her Girl Scout skills to save a life, 1 will use her Girl Scout skills to save her own life, and 17 will be future leaders.  Consider a generous gift to GSSA on #GivingTuesday; it is a sound investment in our community. Because when a girl succeeds, so does society.


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I was driving between service centers last week, pondering the differences between a volunteer who was especially frustrating and another who isn't.    Most of my musing was on the latter volunteer, whom I won't name because she would be embarrassed by the attention.  

I don't always agree with this volunteer, but she is always working hard to communicate.   She talks to everyone in the service center.   About once a month, she calls one of the camp rangers, just to see how he is doing.   If she has time on a Saturday and knows there are girls at camp, she will drive up to talk to the troop leaders and meet the girls.   This individual's daughter aged out of Girl Scouts many years ago, yet she has remained involved and engaged.

Over time, this volunteer and I have talked about the realignment that occurred eight years ago, a discussion that was very hard on volunteers, benefactors and girls in the Movement.   We have talked about staff members. She always reports those who are helpful vs. those who could use a reminder about customer service.    I don't always agree with her, and she certainly doesn't always agree with me.   We have different perspectives, and that's just fine.   We view the organization from different perspectives, but I value what she has to say, even if I don't agree.   I've been mad at her, she's been mad at me, but we have continued to talk to one another.   We communicate through thick and thin, which I appreciate.

I have an abiding respect for this person.   I appreciate the value she brings to me and my work, but my respect comes from the fact that she has done this hard work for years, and she continues to be focused on what is best for girls.   She would say, in a self-effacing way, that her work is mostly with troop leaders. Really, though, her work is central to what all of you do for girls.   It is through women like this one that the organization has changed the world through girls for many years.     And we don't thank this individual as often as she deserves.   As I said, she would find this embarrassing.   She is one of many, but she is very special.

This is but one individual in this organization who changes the world everyday because of what she does for others.   Each of you do this often and change the world this way.   I am around girls who talk about their Girl Scout experience.   They talk about the fun they have.   They talk about the activities they participate in.   This would not be possible without you.   This organization would not continue to grow and thrive without you.   As we take the time to examine what we are thankful for, it is for each of you.   Thankful that you are kind and generous enough to use your time to invest in the girls you care about.

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