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What is that all about?   Many of you know the original story; that the cookie program started as girls learning to bake cookies and selling them as a fund raiser.   Isn't it amazing how the world's largest girl entrepreneur program was started by girls and was girl led?   And it started as early as 1917!

As you can imagine, we have seen a lot of changes to the cookie program this year with the move to allowing girls to sell cookies online.   This is a positive move, as girls have asked for this to happen and permission has been lagging.   Because of concerns over girl safety, this change did not move at "girl speed."   But with this said, selling items online and in a virtual marketplace will be the world these girls inhabit.  

This changes the mix on the cookie program because sales will become more reliant on the girl who has a good sales pitch and marketing for the e-mail recipient to purchase their cookies.  The online sale does not replace or substitute from the regular sale of cookies to friends, family, and at booth sales, so this is in addition to the other traditional sales approaches.

Our cookie baker, ABC, which has developed the online sales software, has assured us they have done considerable testing around the safety issues of girls doing online sales.   One of the safety features is that you cannot forward the e-mail from the Girl Scout from whom you received it to your friends, colleagues, etc.   The link is broken when forwarded, so girls have to initiate the e-mail to make the online sale.   If any of you experience something different, please let us know at communications@girlscoutssa.org.

There has been some blogging about the cost of shipping of Girl Scout cookies sold online.   For anyone whose dining room or home has been consumed in cases of Girl Scout cookies, this might not bother them.   Because this is the first time for this type of sale, there are no reductions in the actual shipping costs.  Or put another way, we do not have the volume that a company like Amazon has to negotiate dramatically reduced shipping rates.   Our baker has determined that purchasing a half case, whole case, or 8-pack of each variety sampler makes the shipping cost effective, so the orders have to be of that size to make the shipping costs bearable.

Although the cookie program always has everyone operating in high gear, each year we all hear wonderful stories about what it does for the self-confidence of the girls who participate.   Every year we hear about the quiet, shy girl who doesn't speak up at troop meetings.   She's an introvert and doesn't interact a lot.   And then, one day at a booth sale, this girl suddenly finds her voice.   She sheds the fright of speaking to people she doesn't know.   She gracefully accepts "no" as a response and isn't bothered by it.   She has discovered that she is an entrepreneur and a successful one.   This happens every year to many girls.

The cookie program has five objectives for girls, which build their self-confidence. They are goal setting, decision-making, money management, people skills, and business ethics.   We hear stories that demonstrate each of those objectives during the program each year.   If you have some good stories to share, please send them to communications@girlscoutssa.org.   We love to share those stories, and they reinforce the power of the program.

I want to remind people that this year the money management is more complex than in previous years. The gluten-free cookie, the Trio, costs $5 a box, rather than $3.50.   This means you will have to be more vigilant while you are selling cookies to be sure you collect the right amount for the type of cookie sold.   The bakers assure us those who regularly purchase gluten-free products are not bothered by the higher cost, but our concern is that your troop and your parents remember the price difference.   I had someone complain to me about it, and I understand change is hard.   As an educator, my response is that this creates a great opportunity for girls to practice their math skills.

We hope the addition of online sales is yet another way for you to learn with your daughter or troop member.   We believe this is a great opportunity for girls to experience the world they will inhabit.   As always, we can learn from girls about how to market and make sales.    I hope your experience with the cookie program is a positive one.  

Cookies, cookies, cookies! They are in our house. They are in our dreams. They are at work. They are everywhere!   It definitely is cookie season!

I have been fortunate to see some great photos of the neighborhood walkabout for cookies, what fun!   One of my favorites was the canine "assistant," who helped the girls while they were doing the walk-about.   There's always safety in numbers.   I watched a delightful video created by some girls, doing their sales pitch and talking about what they learned from selling cookies to the public.   So, even though the cookies are invading our homes and invading our dreams, they are fulfilling their purpose of teaching girls how to be entrepreneurs.  

I had a great discussion with a staff member recently about how professional the girls are when they are selling cookies and how great they act.   They are in their uniforms or in their Girl Scout T-shirts and look like professional young women.   They are making great sales pitches and graciously accepting that not everyone purchases their delectable treats, so not only are we building future entrepreneurs, but this program builds professional women.

 The first year I was here, I received telephone calls about parents and volunteers at booth sales arguing about what door they had scheduled at the Walmart and throwing boxes of cookies at one another.   I'm so grateful the demeanor of the parents and volunteers working with the girls has improved during my time here.   One of the staff has a sign in their office that says "REMEMBER A GIRL IS WATCHING."   I think this is true of the cookie program.   The public draws conclusions about Girl Scouts from how professionally the girls and parents behave at cookie booth sales and throughout the program.   This makes me appreciate the high level of professionalism I see exhibited or hear about from others about girls participating.

We appreciate the amount of time this takes from your already busy schedules.   We know that moving cookies, hauling cookies, counting money, running to the bank, and all the other things you do to make this program a success are time consuming.   But, if you could see all the things the girls learn from it, you would know it certainly is worthwhile.   We also appreciate your professionalism in what can be a taxing task.

Thank you for all you do to make the world a better place, one girl at a time.

It's Cookie Time!

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This time of year is so exciting for many of our amazing young entrepreneurs, and the beginning of some real craziness for many of us as we kick into high gear.   In an effort to keep you abreast of what is going on, I want to review some of the issues we often face during cookie time, so you are well-informed about what may come up.

During the 2014 cookie program, we dealt with that old internet farce, the so-called Planned Parenthood conspiracy with Girl Scouts.   We received telephone calls from some upset people; others made a point of letting us (or girls) know they were not purchasing cookies because of Girl Scouts giving money to Planned Parenthood.   The truth is, we don't.   We haven't, don't, and we are not going to.   Because this affected our cookie program sales, our public relations staff has worked ahead to try to address this and provide you with a set of responses around last year's allegations and the real facts.   Let me repeat: we do not have any relationship with Planned Parenthood.   For more information and the materials we have developed for this year's cookie program, visit our Forms & Resources page.

We have seen some blogs and other materials about the Girl Scout retirement program funding deficit.   Yes, there are issues around the full funding of the Girl Scout retirement program.   This and other councils pay into the plan annually to fund pensions of long-time Girl Scout employees.   However, the plan has been frozen for several years, meaning those of us hired in the last several years have no retirement plan.   GSUSA has worked with Congress to shape legislation to address the full funding issues.

Online cookie sales is a new point causing confusion this year.  I have had many people tell me they thought the only way girls were selling cookies this year was online.   I think the great public relations around the online sales have led the general public to that conclusion.   I have assured those to whom I have spoken that online sales are simply another approach to selling cookies in this age of the internet.   When 70% of the public says they do not purchase cookies because no one asks them, this is a way to ask them to support girls.   Hopefully, as the general public sees girls out and about with cookies, their perception will change.

This year there are two online platforms to purchase cookies.   These vary by the two bakers. One is being managed by GSUSA, and the councils using that platform use Little Brownie Bakers for their cookies.   We are using COCO, which is the online platform for our baker, ABC, which decided that, to purchase online, you must purchase at least 6 boxes of cookies to make the shipping costs seem reasonable.   Thus, you cannot purchase only one box of cookies online from our baker.   

Through the online cookie platform, girls send emails to potential customers, so that they may purchase cookies. Depending on the email sent, girls either are asking customers to purchase cookies that they will then deliver, or purchase cookies that will be delivered by the cookie baker (in which case, customers must pay applicable shipping fees).

We are looking forward to a great cookie sale and hope you are, too!  Please let us know if there is other information that would make your girls more successful as they are out selling.  Thanks, again, for your hard work during this time of year.

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We hope the New Year brings peace, wisdom, and many gifts that feed your soul.

Did you make any New Year's resolutions?   What are they?   I've made a few, and we'll see how it goes.   Some years I make them, and I follow through.   When this happens, they do change how I enjoy the year and life.  The experts on a tv program I was watching recently said most resolutions are broken within a month, long forgotten.  

One of my resolutions is to be a better friend to my many friends.   I have wonderful friends who are supportive.   They lend a listening ear.   They remember my birthday, visit my mother when I sometimes can't, and they are simply there when I need them.   I believe it is important to be as good a friend to my friends as I possibly can.   Do you teach girls to be good friends through troop meetings, programs, and activities you do through Girl Scouts?   I suspect you do.

During the holidays, one of my friends lost her husband.   He came home on Friday evening and had a heart attack.   She did CPR on him until the ambulance arrived.   They got him to the hospital where they operated and installed three stents.   He had been to the doctor 15 days before and pronounced in excellent health.  

By Sunday he was awake; talking and joking with his wife and son.   Sunday night he was again taken to the operating room, they called his wife and said there was no need to return to the hospital because  they were going to install a pacemaker.   He didn't make it through the surgery.   This happened three days before Christmas.

I attended the funeral, which was postponed until after Christmas.  Everyone was trying to make sense of it.   He was young, and as a court-appointed attorney, he did work others did not want to do.   He lived what he believed, with respect to social justice and the treatment of others.   The theme of the funeral was his constant kindness, which was so true of him.  One of my resolutions is to be sure to be supportive of his wife and son, who are friends of mine.   But we are reminded you never know what tomorrow will bring.  

It is important to live each day to the fullest, as it is a gift to you.   I know many of you personally, and kindness is an attribute that I see constantly in what I do.   I see frequent acts of kindness and conversations with girls about kindness.   Make kindness part of your 2015 plan. I hope it is.

A number of years ago, I attended a middle school football game to watch the son of one of my friends in his debut.   I arrived well before she did, so I was sitting in the bleachers, watching those around me.   There were lots of people there, but many were on the cell phones, not looking up long enough to really see what was going on.   My conclusion is that we can be present but not paying attention.  

Another of my resolutions is to be present and pay attention.   The cell phone can ring constantly, with e-mails and updates.   But being present matters to those I interact with.   People crave real conversation with others, where both parties listen and exchange thoughts and ideas.   When I have attended troop meetings, it's clear that, as a troop leader you have to be present.   Girls appreciate that you take the time to be present with them.   It shapes lives.

Finally, one of my resolutions is to change the world.   In my case, I have the privilege of changing the world one Girl Scout at a time.   It isn't often that we have the opportunity to see how the world is changed, one girl at a time.   Last week, there was an article in the Dothan Eagle about one of our Girl Scouts who saved someone's life.   What a wonderful gift she gave as a direct result of the skills she developed as a Girl Scout.   Although not everyone's story is quite as dramatic, being a Girl Scout and changing your world does make the world a better place.   Thank you for changing the world, one girl at a time.

I hope you stay with your New Year's resolutions and have a great 2015!

The Joy of Giving

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November 14, 2014

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The holiday season reminds us to reflect on the gifts we have received during the past year and experience the joy of giving.   It is a time when we are grateful for all others have given us.   It also is a good time for us to thank you for all you have given during the past 12 months.

I am fortunate to have a job where I see the results of all you do to make the world a better place.   One week it might be a girl who is shy and doesn't talk much, finding her voice with her friends in the troop.   Other times, it is finally figuring out how to stand up on the stand up paddleboard in the lake, knowing a misstep might result in a plunge into the murky water.   On a hike, there is the chance encounter with one of Alabama's slithery friends and not responding to the impulse to run, but stay and appreciate how this reptile is contributing to our world.   Another week, it is having the courage to approach someone she doesn't know at a booth sale requesting support through the cookie program.

You give gifts to the girls you work with all the time.   You encourage them to learn in a safe environment.   You listen to their concerns.   You share their joys and empathize with their disappointments.   You are there when they need you and provide the thoughtful concern that all children would benefit from.   You share your knowledge, your wisdom, and your gifts to make the next generation reach their potential.

During this time of year when we take the time to consider our many blessings, we thank you for being so generous with your gifts.   We hope you and your family have a peaceful and joyous holiday season.

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It seems hard to believe that it's already time to start planning for resident, but it certainly is.   We have reviewed the comments from girls, had some discussions, and now we are working on what to offer for next summer's resident camp sessions.   To remain aligned with GSUSA, we are continuing to focus on core outdoor skills.   It is a return to some of the long held and cherished values of the Girl Scout program.   Since we don't know what outdoor badges will be offered, we are working to focus on all those program opportunities girls voted on for the 2015 program.

To answer our most often asked question, yes, we will continue to offer the horse program.  We will also continue to offer swimming lessons, so girls can increase their confidence and abilities in and around the water.   In a state that has lots of water, it is important for girls to have swimming skills and confidence around those skills.   Day camp worked for a number of girls who didn't want to spend the night, or their parents weren't comfortable with it.   We had some great successes there with a number of girls returning for a resident camp session, so we will offer day camp again.  Brownie Sampler is another great way to introduce your daughter to camp if you are concerned about the length of a full session.   Leadership camp will also be returning as part of the program.

One of the interesting things I have learned the past few years is that girls who have attended camp for years don't necessarily possess some of the outdoors skills we might expect.   Few know how to build a campfire, for example.   Outdoor cooking skills are somewhat limited.   We have done a great job with survivor skills, so GPS, compass, and some of the outdoor hiking skills are good, but others have not been part of the program.   Our current thinking is we will work to integrate more of those into the program for all girls.

My own foray into Girl Scouts was serving as the assistant director of a summer resident camp, so I understand and resonate with the values camp provides.   Last summer Karlyn Edmonds, COO, and I were able to spend our summer at resident camp.   What a tremendous gift that was.   We were able to see on a daily basis girls who were not deterred by their size, their skill level, their anxiety, or their fear.   One day I watched one of the smallest girls in her group take on the task at hand, master it, do it well, and then show her friends how to do it.   It was simply amazing to watch.

As we work to shape the summer program, we are in search of girl input.   If your daughter or troop has thoughts about the camp program, please contact us at communications@girlscoutssa.org.

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Do you or your girl have a story to tell about how Girl Scouts made a difference for you?   Girl Scouting has changed the lives of millions of girls, volunteers, and parents.   We know there are some wonderful stories in southern Alabama, and we want to share with others how this had benefitted you and your family.   We will be using your stories of inspiration in our publications, reports, and media.  

Between November 17 and December 17, we are having a contest, asking for your most moving stories.   For those who win in each category, we will offer a $50 Walmart gift card.   There are two categories: girls, so the story needs to be written by a girl and/or with assistance from her parent; and the other category is volunteers.   The stories we use are the stories from you, so please share generously.

For our end of the year letter, we shared two different stories about girls, but we are always stunned and amazed what girls can do and that comes from you.  Here is the link with the details.

Let others know some of the wonderful things that happen through Girl Scouts.

Giving Thanks

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Too often, we get drawn into the chaos of our daily existence, which is consumed with lots of small issues and little time to focus on the large events of the day.    Then, when everyone is in bed and things are pointed toward tomorrow we are simply spent.

Recently, one of our Girl Scouts was seriously injured in a terrible accident on her way to school.   We all stop and take a collective gasp.   In the blink of an eye, her world was changed, along with that of her parents and her siblings.   It was likely a day when no one gave a minute's thought to something devastating happening.

You probably know someone who is battling cancer or some other disease or issue that could be terminal.   We can learn from those individuals.   I have a friend who has battled breast cancer for about four years now.   The operative word is "battled."   Early on, she told me that she decided, rather than spending her time pondering her demise, she was going to treat everyday as a gift to be enjoyed and savored.   She told me she no longer "searched" for happiness on a daily basis, she got up and savored the happiness that came to her everyday.   She enjoyed her walks with the dogs, and the time with her spouse, her family and friends.   She became grateful for every day she was given because it was a gift.   She stopped and smelled the flowers, listened to the birds singing, and watched the changes of the seasons.  What if we reoriented our perspective of dealing with the issues life presents and decide everyday was a gift and live it that way?   Would we not be surprised by the daily miracles around us that we don't take the time to savor?

At this time of year when we give thanks, we want to thank you for serving as a role model to the girls (and children).   These times will not be forgotten.   Girls will learn from the gifts you gave them for the rest of their lives.   Giving of your time and yourself is a gift.   It is a higher order gift because it transcends the daily trivia and provides the opportunity to savor the potential of those you interact with.

Thank you for sharing your wisdom, your gifts, your insights, your time and your talents.

Giving Tuesday

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December 2, 2014, is GIVING TUESDAY.   Giving Tuesday is a day during which the philanthropic community works to highlight not-for-profit organizations and encourages the community to give to their favorite groups.

We are working on a goal of raising $1,000 for GSSA during the GIVING TUESDAY campaign.   If you want to give an end-of-the-year gift, please consider going online to www.girlscoutssa.org/invest and make your donation to us that day.   We have been promoting Giving Tuesday through our social media with #unselfies, in hopes to increase what we raised in 2013.

Donations and giving are changing from the more traditional end-of-the-year letters to social media, crowd sourcing, and other approaches.   GSSA recently received $5,000 from Wind Creek Casino Wetumpka from a video the girls submitted and was voted on by social media.   Just as retail goes on-line, and we can order most anything from our telephone or computer all hours of the day and night, we can raise funds through Giving Tuesday, which is a type of crowd sourcing.

We work to solicit gifts for the girls through a wide variety of sources.  Over time, however, we have left a couple of United Way organizations due to their funding cuts (Lee County and Southwest Alabama, Mobile) and funding has been reduced from some of the others because of a tough economy.   Government agencies after sequestration have reduced funds to agencies so some of the quality programs we have long provided have gone away because of funding cuts.   Despite all of this, we have a large number of people who give generously to us annually, so girls can reap the benefits of the Girl Scout Leadership Experience.

Give on Giving Tuesday, tag us in your #unselfies, and encourage your friends to give to make the world a better place through Girl Scouts.


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We work at "girl speed," which in my world is often really fast.   As we work to attract girls to the pre-eminent girl leadership program in the world, we are asking for girls' input.   At the recent GSUSA National Convention, there was considerable work done around girls' outdoor experience and what they want in a changing world of outdoor opportunities.

GSUSA is rolling out four new outdoor badges next year.   As a part of that process, we are asking girls to vote for what they prefer to be involved in.     The first vote by girls will be around what content area the badges should be in.   The choices are Outdoor Recreation, Outdoor Environment, or Outdoor Survival.   Voting on that extends until November 30, and this can be done by going to Girls Choice - Outdoor Badge Voting. Please encourage their girls to voice their opinion!

Once the results are in from girls on the content area, then they will propose various possibilities within that area for girls to vote on, such as hiking, camping, trail blazing, etc.  The voting for that will run from December 1 - December 31, 2014.   We want to provide girls with the opportunities to learn and develop they outline.   We also want to continue to work at girl speed and make the Girl Scout Leadership Experience one they have a voice in.

Let your voice be heard, go to Girls Choice Outdoor Badge Voting to vote on the content areas before November 30.   Once the content area is identified, return to vote on the actual badge topic. The final results will be announced on March 15, 2015.

Thank you for your input.