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2017 marks 100 years of selling Girl Scout Cookies

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Fran Bush remembers the year when her Girl Scout troop sold more than 32,000 boxes of Girl Scout Cookies. It was 1954, and the girls of the Wasatch Council Girl Scout Troop in Salt Lake City beat their previous season's numbers by 10,000 boxes of cookies, Bush, 75, who was a Girl Scout from 1950-56, wrote in an email to the Deseret News.

That year there were three varieties of cookies: Trefoils, a sandwich cookie and Cooky Mints, which were the predecessors to the Thin Mint cookies that debuted in 1959 (see girlscouts.org). Cooky Mints were 40 cents a box. The Trefoils and sandwich cookies were 35 cents, Bush recalled.

As cookie booths prepare to set up in the area March 10-26, the 2017 cookie season marks the 100th year since the first known sale of cookies by Girl Scouts in Muskogee, Oklahoma, according to girlscouts.org.

In addition to raising funds for the local troops, selling Girls Scout Cookies also helps the girls develop what the organization calls the "5 skills," which are goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills and business ethics.

The first Girl Scout cookie sale in Salt Lake City was in 1928, according to Girl Scouts of Utah Heritage Committee, which documents the history of the Girl Scouts in Utah and of which Bush is a member.

“What a lot of people don’t know about Girl Scout cookie sales is that most of the funds stay in local troops to help girls in Utah,” said Sophie Dodge, a 16-year-old student from Salt Lake City who has been a member of the Girl Scouts of Utah for 10 years.

Money earned from cookie sales help the Girl Scouts fund the troop's activities and programs, service trips and, in some cases, help maintain camps.

Close to 65 percent of proceeds go directly back into local troops for activities, according to information from Lisa Beaudry, the marketing campaign director for GSU. One-fourth of the profit pays for cookie production, and 40 cents of the current $4 total price goes outside the organization to pay for things such as facilities and uniforms.

Sophie sells an average of 300-400 boxes during each cookie selling season, and she said that those numbers are comparatively low to what most of the 35 girls in her troop will sell.

Sophie is planning on using her cookie funds to pay for a service trip to the Virgin Islands to help out with a national park. The trip was planned by the girls in Troop 630 of the Salt Lake City area and costs around $1,600 per girl.

Sophie said she chose to go on this trip because she had a good experience with her last Girl Scouts trip in 2013 to Costa Rica, where they volunteered at a biological research center and helped at a home for underprivileged girls. This year, Sophie has enjoyed being able to plan more of the trip.

"I joined this service trip fundraiser because the trip sounded like a good opportunity to give back to a community and to have fun with my troop," Sophie said.

Nationally, the Girls Scout Cookies history notes that in 1969, over 100 Girl Scouts were VIP guests of NASA at the Apollo 12 launch at Cape Kennedy, Florida, and used proceeds raised by cookie sales to get there, the Girl Scouts website said. Also, in 1996, a Maryland troop made a business plan, and their big ideas sent their girls to the Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta.

For Bush's troop sales, the profits from that extra 10,000 boxes they sold that year were used to improve the Camp Red Cliffe facilities in Huntsville, Weber County, where the girls would host yearly camps. (The property was closed and sold in the 1980s, according to gsutah.org.) The four top-selling girls that season got partial “camperships,” or camp scholarships, that helped the girls go on the annual trip at less cost, Bush wrote. The rest of the girls got a $1 camp credit for a day camp.

Those "camperships" are still offered today in the form of travel scholarships, which Sophie said can really help some girls.

For information on how to purchase Girl Scout Cookies, use either the Cookie Finder app or the Girl Scouts of Utah website at gsutah.com/cookiefinder.

Email: mhulse@deseretnews.com