MARIETTA - Area Girl Scouts are out in force this month, taking orders for their annual cookie sales fundraiser that helps support a variety of Scouting and community service activities.
"The cookie sales are designed to promote five distinct life skills-goal-setting, decision-making, money management, people skills and business ethics," said Bridget Buffington, volunteer administrator with the Campus Martius Service Unit of the Girl Scouts Black Diamond Council.
She said money generated from the annual sales may be used for field trips, community service projects, supplies and resources to help with work on merit badges.
Rachel Schofield, left, and sister Kristin Schofield work on one of four fleece blankets Marietta Girl Scout Troop 629 made for a local family through the Washington-Morgan Counties Community Action Secret Santa Program last year. (Photo provided by Bridget Buffington)
"The troops receive 60 cents for every $3.50 box of cookies they sell," Buffington said, admitting that folks simply wanting to satisfy a sweet tooth can likely buy cookies at a local store for less or make their own.
But purchasing that box of Thin Mints, Trefoils, Do-Si-Dos, Samoas, Tagalongs, Dulce de Leche or Thank U Berry Munch means a lot more to the Scouts as well as to the local community.
One of last year's community service projects for Junior Troop 629 of Marietta provided warm blankets for a local family through the Washington-Morgan Community Action Secret Santa Program, according to troop leader Michelle Secrest.
A member of the Marietta Kiwanis Club, Secrest learned that the club had "adopted" a family with four boys for the Secret Santa initiative.
"The girls were looking for a service project, so this was perfect," she said. "We made four fleece blankets for the boys who were ages 1, 3, 4 and 7."
Secrest's daughter Lakyn, 9, and 15 other members of Troop 629 spent an entire two-hour session on the project.
"I liked it. We worked on one little blanket that had cars printed on it," Lakyn said. "I cut some of the pieces and helped tie them together."
Lakyn said it was good to know the blankets were going to a family that needed them.
Fellow Troop 629 member Rachel Schofield, 10, agreed.
"I worked around the edges of the blankets, tying the top and bottoms together," she said. "This was our first time making blankets. We usually go to a nursing home and sing Christmas songs and hand out ornaments we have made. But this was more creative."
Rachel's twin sister, Kristin, is also a member of the troop.
Lakyn said she's been selling Girl Scout cookies to help support such projects for four or five years now.
"My sales are going good this year. I've sold a lot," Lakyn said. "I think most people are buying the Thin Mints."
Schofield said Thin Mints and Samoas are her biggest sellers.
"I'm doing pretty good. I've sold 150 to 200 boxes of cookies already," she said.
Nikki Burchett is Scout leader for Marietta Troops 625, 1436 and 1437 who are conducting a clothing drive to help the Gospel Mission Food Pantry at the Harmar Community Center.
"We did this for the first time last year, and it turned out to be very successful," Burchett said. "Most of the troop attends Harmar Elementary School and they wanted to do the clothing drive again this year."
She said the Scouts made signs and posters to get the word out about the clothing drive.
"They think this project is really awesome," Burchett said. "It teaches them a lot about giving back to the community."
She said after school next week the troop members will put the donated clothes into wagons and take them to the mission.
"Last year they were given a tour of the mission facilities and shown where the clothing donations go," Burchett added.
Jeff Waite, who helps operate the Gospel Mission with his wife, Candy, said the clothing is a real need this time of year.
"We go through a lot of clothes, especially during the winter months," he said. "People should be proud of the kids in this community who help provide clothing and even volunteer at the mission."
He said the Girl Scouts projects are a good character-building tool.
"This teaches them to recognize and help meet the needs of others in their community," Waite said.
Initial cookie sales are conducted through door-to-door orders in local neighborhoods, but those orders may also come from family members, employers, businesses and civic groups, Buffington said.
"First orders are taken from Jan. 4 through Feb. 1, and delivered by the end of February," she explained. "After the initial orders are filled the girls also order more cookies for booth sales in various locations-at entrances to local businesses like Wal-Mart and Kmart stores, for example."
She said the cookies are generally available through booth sales from March through May.
During the 2012 cookie season, 25,086 boxes were sold by 15 Marietta area troops that participated in the sale, netting a total profit of approximately $15,000, Buffington said.
Working in partnership with about 4,000 volunteers, Girl Scouts of Black Diamond Council serves nearly 20,000 girls in 61 counties in West Virginia, Ohio and Maryland.