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January 7, 2011

Daisies troop blossoms just as cookie sale begins

HAYFIELD TOWNSHIP — HAYFIELD TOWNSHIP — For the better part of her childhood, Robin Peel was all about Girl Scouts.

It was an opportunity for Peel to meet new people, socialize and just have a good time. But the thing that kept Peel most invested was the lesson Girl Scouts taught young girls.

“I remember it just being a lot of fun,” Peel said. “And I learned a lot. I learned the fundamentals and basics of growing up. You start young and take it with you through your whole life. It’s a life lesson.”

Girl Scouts had such an impact on Peel that right after graduation from high school in 1996, the Meadville resident knew she wanted to become involved in some capacity again. Every attempt, however, led to the same dead end.

“No one needed any more help,” Peel said.

About two years ago, though — with the encouragement of her oldest daughter, Hazel, 5 — Peel decided to go a different route and start a new Daisies troop in the Saegertown area. In late December, Peel’s dream finally came true when Girl Scouts approved the formation of Troop 30735.

And the timing couldn’t be more perfect.

Today marks the beginning of the Girl Scout Cookie Program — one of the most recognizable fundraisers in the country. The sale of the famous Thin Mints, Tagalongs, Samoas, Do-Si-Dos and four other varieties runs through Jan. 26. Delivery is planned for mid-February.

Cookies are $3.50 per box.

“It’s such a good time,” Peel said of selling the cookies. “It’s a lot of hard work, but a lot of fun too. The profit for each troop is small, but the girls get a lot of valuable experience.”

Last year, Girl Scouts raised $1,974,508 through the Girl Scout Cookie Program. According to Nancy Irwin, director of membership and marketing for Girl Scouts of northwestern Pennsylvania, that is equivalent to 3.1 million boxes of cookies.

Irwin said 16 percent of sales stay within the troop, which is extremely important to a troop like 30735, which Peel said is working with very little start-up funds.

“We’ve just started, so we have no money,” said Peel, who recognized Hayfield Central Hose Company for the donation of its social hall for the troop’s meetings. “This came at the right time. We already missed the magazine sales. So cookies are it. That and donations.”

Of course, the Girl Scout Cookie Program is far more than a way to raise money.

“Yes, it is a revenue-generating thing,” Irwin said. “But first and foremost, it’s an economic and literacy program for girls. They learn to set goals, make decisions, learn people skills, money management, business ethics.

“It helps that shy girl become more confident to maybe raise her hand to ask a question in class or to try something new. There is more to it than people know. (The cookies) taste pretty good too.”

Peel, who was a Brownie from about 1986 to 1990, distinctly remembers selling cookies. She said the most she ever sold was 325 boxes. She still has the badge, among many others, to prove it. It is quite a phenomenon.

“When my oldest daughter was involved, we found a troop in Baltimore two days before the end of the cookie fundraiser,” said Lanni Higby-Parkhurst, whose daughter, Corinna, is one of the new members of Troop 30735. “Caylle said, ‘We don’t have to sell cookies.’ I said, ‘Oh, yes we do.’ We sold 127 boxes … in two days.”

A total of 37 Girl Scout troops in Crawford County will be out and about selling cookies over the next few weeks. Troop 30735 is excited to be among them and just Girl Scouts in general. It’s exactly how Peel imagined it when she first got the idea of starting her own troop a few years ago.

“It’s been well worth it,” said Sheri Brumbaugh, co-leader of the troop. “At the end of work I’m like, ‘Oh, I get to go to Girl Scouts tonight!’ My co-workers look at me like I’m crazy. I’m just excited to go. It’s so much fun.”

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