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Girl Scouts extend cookie season through April, with the focus online

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused Girl Scout cookie sales to go stale.  Credit: Newsday / Susan Yale and Tory Parrish

Face-to-face Girl Scout cookie sales have crumbled amid the coronavirus pandemic, so the organization is pushing more online sales for its biggest revenue generator.

The yearly cookie fundraisers, typically held between January and April, help fund Girl Scout camping trips, science- and technology-based activities, community service projects and other programs, but the girls’ door-to-door and booth sales were halted in March as part of efforts to stop the spread of the virus.

Suffolk and Nassau counties' Girl Scout councils still need to sell a combined 273,000 boxes of cookies to reach their goals, officials said.

Some Scouts were disappointed at the pause in person-to-person sales, but Jericho resident Allie McCormick, 14, a member of Girl Scout Troop 3095, took a broad view. “I’d rather they’d stop the cookie sales and everyone stay safe than we continue selling and then people start getting sick,” she said.

The 16,000 girls of the Girl Scouts of Nassau County sold 1.2 million boxes of cookies last year, generating a net of $3.7 million for the county council, or about 55% of its annual budget, said Rande Bynum, chief executive officer of that Garden City-based council.

So far this year, the Girl Scouts of Nassau County has reached about 85% of its sales goal, Bynum said.  About 90,000 more boxes — priced at $5 each — are left to meet the goal, she said.

"We plan to resume booth sales and other in-person opportunities once the pause is lifted," Bynum said.

In the meantime, the Scouts are taking advantage of new sales initiatives.

In late March, the Girl Scouts of the USA launched Cookie Care, which extends online sales through April 30, past the typical deadline of March 29, Bynum said.  The program allows consumers to buy cookies and have them shipped to their homes.

Also, within Cookie Care, the Nassau County troops have a new localized program, called Hometown Heroes, that allows consumers to make donations to the council on its website or to a specific Girl Scout with a personalized email link, Bynum said.  The donations are used to buy cookies that the Scouts will deliver to essential workers, such as police, supermarket employees and health care workers, after the pandemic ends, she said.

Allie and her sister Sammie O’Connor, 7, who is a Girl Scout Brownie, have received Hometown Heroes donations online with their personalized links and made cookie deliveries to the Jericho Fire Department, Nassau County Police Department and other places in late March, said their mother and troop leader, Fran O’Connor, 44.  Future deliveries will take place after the pandemic ends, she said.

The Girl Scouts of Suffolk County, which serves 30,000 girls, also has launched a Hometown Heroes program.

Cookie sales are critical to operations — the net of $2.9 million raised from sales last year accounted for about half of the council’s budget, said Christine Terzella, spokeswoman for the Girl Scouts of Suffolk County, which is based in Commack.

Suffolk County's Girl Scouts have reached 82% of this year's cookie sales goal, leaving about 183,000 more boxes to be sold, she said.

And online sales are on the rise.

In Nassau County last year, 11% of cookie sales were online, compared to 18% so far this year, Bynum said.

In Suffolk County, 9% of cookie sales were online last year, compared to 17% so far this year, Terzella said.


Founded in 1912, the Girl Scouts of the USA is headquartered in Manhattan and has 2.5 million members — more than 1.7 million girls and 750,000 adults — across 111 independent councils nationwide, according to its website. 

The national organization said it could not yet say how the coronavirus is affecting cookie sales nationwide.

To buy or donate cookies in Nassau, go to gsnc.org.  In Suffolk, go to gssc.us.

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