Flipping through a Girl Scout magazine, 10-year-old Pearl Inman saw a camp where she could pick up survival skills such as saving lives, starting fires, building shelters and practicing self-defense.
“My mom actually said, ‘You could go to camp for free if you sell 1,000 boxes,’” Pearl recalled after selling her last box of Girl Scout cookies on Saturday.
Those are words her mother, Jenni, might have wanted to eat after filling her Ford Expedition with so many boxes she couldn’t see out the rear window and deliveries turned into a full-time job. Cookie distribution proved a feat for the Inmans, who live in rural Buffalo Valley, a 50-minute drive or longer if it’s snowing and if the buyers are in town, which is where most of them took delivery.
But the icing on the cookie, Inman said: “Pearl earned $400 for her troop.”
That’s a sweet reward for Pearl’s troop of just six girls, said Inman, who hopes the funds will underwrite an educational field trip for Troop 1129.
Cookie sales have been a way to finance troop activities beginning as early as 1917 when the Mistletoe Troop in Muskogee, Oklahoma, baked cookies and sold them in its high school cafeteria as a service project, according to the Girl Scouts organization.
Today, cookie season comes once a year for troops, which sell truck-loads of boxes. In Teton County girls work together, continuing the tradition of raising money for troop outings and activities. The girls also shoot for individual rewards, learning about business and philanthropy as they go.
Before spring break, sisters Avis and Addalyn Chapman, 8 and 5, teamed up with sisters Annabelle and Madelynne Dombroski, ages 7 and 5, to sell cookies at a booth inside Smith’s Food and Drug. The younger girls are Daisies, and their older sisters are Brownies.
One of the best parts of cookie sale season, Madelynne said, is “I get to eat them sometimes.”
Their troop, 1593, plans to spend the proceeds to go camping and throw a swimming-and-movie party. For the town-based troop, just the act of selling cookies offers a chance to get together and be social with one another and their customers.
“It’s so fun,” said mom Amber Chapman as she recognized friends and neighbors coming and going. Chapman appreciated that Smith’s allows the girls to set up their booth inside the shelter of the store.
Selling Girl Scout cookies takes a village.
“Grandma was amazing,” Chapman said. “Grandma took the girls selling cookies after school.”
The sisters also decided to pool sales and split any prizes, said Chapman, who was glad to see the spirit of sharing among siblings.
Likewise, Dombroski’s daughters also decided to work as a team, a virtue celebrated by the organization Dombroski also joined as a girl.
“I actually pulled out my sash to give to the girls,” she said.
Dombroski grew up in New York, where a more urban setting didn’t offer the tight-knit feel she finds with a Teton troop.
“I think the small-town camaraderie is what I appreciate for the girls,” Dombroski said.
Pearl, meanwhile, had help from family friend, Melissa Kryger, who works at Snake River Brewing. A former Girl Scout herself, Kryger offered to sell cookies to her co-workers. She sold 300 cookies for Pearl.
Because Kryger doesn’t technically earn a reward, the Inmans bought her Girl Scout earrings bearing the the logo found on the trefoils.
“The Girl Scouts of America does expect to give a little, save a little and spend a little,” Jenni Inman said.
Unlike Kryger, Inman wanted to be a Girl Scout but didn’t have the chance. Her only memory of Girl Scouts was a school assembly at which representatives from Boy Scouts and Girls Scouts got onstage to make a pitch.
The pitch for Boy Scouts went something like: Do you want to shoot arrows, sleep in a tent, ride four-wheelers and go fishing?
“I was like, ‘I want to do that,’” Inman said.
Girls Scouts promised life skills, sleeping in a tent and hiking. She wanted to do that, too.
But, she said, “my parents were like, ‘You are going to play softball and hang out with your grandma,’ which was great.” But it wasn’t Scouting.
“I have a Girl Scout book from 1933 that belonged to Pearl’s great-grandma,” Inman said. “It’s real-life skills. How to build a fire. How to cook a Dutch oven. It’s really quite phenomenal.”
Art of the sale
Although Pearl didn’t win her camp registration she did pick up some entrepreneurial skills as she sold a whopping 755 boxes despite blizzards, illness and her mom’s other surprise full-time occupation: caring for Pearl’s younger brother after he broke his leg skiing in March.
Pearl had more fun than she expected setting up her Digital Cookie website.
She had attempted to create her own business website once before but was stymied part-way through building it. With the Girl Scouts Digital Cookie platform she was able to easily follow the steps, learning how to create a “biograph,” a biographical essay.
“I thought it would be more serious, but it was more fun than I thought,” she said. “It wasn’t that strict; it was kind of easy flowing.”
It also made it easy to sell cookies to her grandparents, who live in Kentucky and Texas.
“She learned some valuable business skills and social skills,” Inman said.
On her Digital Cookie site Pearl put it this way: “I have learned from selling cookies that it’s not just about the prizes, but getting to know the people in my community.”
Selling 755 boxes did earn Pearl a sleeping bag and her Girl Scout membership for 2020, along with a few other “neat items,” she said, including bracelets that turn into writing pens.
As for her goal to go to camp to learn survival skills, her parents plan to foot the bill.