Girl Scouts celebrating centennial anniversary

Last year, 11-year-old Jacey Eschete sold 577 boxes of Girl Scout Cookies.

Because the 2011 sales period coincided with a break from school, Jacey said she was able to make a lot of sales to co-workers of her mom Julie Eschete, who works at the University of New Orleans Medicaid Office in Thibodaux. But the mom credited the daughter’s initiative.

“This afternoon, her first plan is to go to her grandmother’s neighborhood,” Julie Eschete said. “She’s all ready to go.”

Local scouts began going door-to-door to make their sales pitches and take cookie orders last weekend, an unofficial kick-off for the national organization’s 100th anniversary. Cookie booths, located throughout the Tri-parishes, will return from March 2-18.

Jacey said her participation in the cookie program has helped her grow as a person.

“I’m more confident,” she said. “I’m not nervous to go out and project myself. When I first started girl scouts, I was nervous, but now that I’m getting older and I’m going into higher levels of confidence, I’m confident in going door-to-door and selling cookies.”

Because the sight of a dejected scout can often coerce a decliner into becoming a buyer, Jacey doesn’t push against a ‘No.’ If someone uses the excuse of a diet, however, the fifth-grader at Caldwell Middle strikes back.

“You can just eat one cookie a day, or you can donate to Gift of Caring,” said Jacey, who is a member of Troop No. 522.

Each troop selects one local organization to funnel cookies toward through Gift of Caring in the event someone wants to make a contribution but doesn’t want cookies.

Jacey was one of more than 100 scouts from Raceland to Thibodaux to attend the Girl Scouts Louisiana East annual cookie rally, held at St. Genevieve School in Thibodaux, organizers said.

At “Cookie School,” every 15 minutes scouts rotated among eight stations aiming to teach various aspects of the cookie program.

The 17 troops on hand practiced sales techniques, sampled the cookies, learned of sales incentives and safety precautions, created personalized banners and participated in cookie-centric games.

“They learn about the cookies so they know what they’re selling, and it teaches them how,” said Tammy Poche, a Girl Scouts Louisiana East spokeswoman.

Scouts in the local council, which includes 23 parishes, sold more than 1.1 million boxes last year; 186 scouts sold at least 500 boxes.

This year, the scouts are making it easier on the customer. The location and times of booth sales will be available online, through the Cookie Locater mobile app (downloadable from the iTunes store) and over mobile phone at **GSCOOKIES.

Once a location is pinned down, the booths shouldn’t be hard to find. Scouts are encouraged this year to tap into their creativity and “bling out” the booths with lights, themed props and costumes.

A box of cookies costs $3.50, payable upon delivery. Proceeds fund troop activities and the remainder is used to maintain properties, train and recruit volunteers and support council initiatives.

On its own, scout-management of the cookie program teaches accountability and leadership qualities, Jacey’s mom said.

“They learn money skills, and they’re in charge,” Julie Eschete said. “They have to run the booths and collect the money. The money they earn, they turn around and use for our troop, such as planning their camping trips or whatever else they want to do.”

Throughout the morning, central and north Lafourche Parish troops voted on their favorite cookie. Thin Mints was declared the winner, and Savannah Smiles, the newest addition to the girl-scout stockpile, finished second.

The new cookie, which is lemon-filled and covered with powdered sugar, is an ode to the Georgia city where Juliette Gordon Lowe organized the first Girl Scout troop on March 12, 1912.

Girl Scouts Louisiana East will celebrate the program’s 100th anniversary with a celebration on March 17 in Gonzalez.

“We have quite a few troops this year who have set high goals for themselves since they want to travel to Washington, D.C; Savannah, Ga.; and elsewhere to attend Girl Scouts 100th Anniversary events being planned,” Alisha Moore, director of sales at Girl Scouts Louisiana East, said.

Nationally, Girl Scouts of the USA has announced the centennial year will be known as the “Year of the Girl.” The organization’s CEO said the designation would serve as a launch point as the organization tries to “change the landscape for girls and young women.”

“We can’t transform American leadership in a year, but we can transform expectations in a year,” CEO Anna Maria Chavez said in a press release. “We can transform awareness in a year. We can set in motion a generational change, and make certain that a baby girl born in 2012 will experience her life in a new and vastly different world.”

Over its 100-year history, GSUSA has ballooned to include 3.2 million active members and 50 million alumnae.

Brownies with Girl Scouts Louisiana East practice cookie sales pitches after dressing up at the council’s annual cookie rally. The rally kicks-off Girl Scout Cookie sales while mixing in fun activities. ERIC BESSON