She stands there in the cold, at the entrance to Fred Meyer, QFC or Safeway. She’s bundled up in her warmest coat wearing fingerless gloves, a big smile and her Girl Scout vest — blue for Daisies, chocolate for Brownies, green for Juniors and khaki for Cadets, Seniors and Ambassadors.
Her booth is neat and tidy, a miniscule table with a poster she decorated last night in her kitchen with markers and glitter that scattered all over the floor. On the top of table is a row of cookies, special treats available only once a year.
You know those cookies. Maybe you don’t know the names they’re called now in Western Washington: Tagalongs, Samoas, Thin Mints and Trefoils. Perhaps you have older names in the deep recesses of your memory banks. But it doesn’t matter what they’re called, you can taste those cookies before you see them.
Not only that, but maybe you have other memories too: going to Girl Scout camp when you were little, shooting arrows at the archery range, saddling up a horse, weaving a lanyard or building a campfire. Maybe your mom was a Girl Scout, or you grandma — or your great grandma.
Anyone who was a Girl Scout has a long memory. Girl Scouts know that before there was a Women’s March or Sen. Patty Murray, one of the most powerful people in the Senate, there was Juliette Gordon Low who back in 1912 called up her cousin and said, “I’ve got something for the girls of Savannah, and all of America, and all the world, and we’re going to start it tonight!”
Nowadays, the Girl Scouts of Western Washington are living Low’s vision of hands-on learning and adventure. In addition to pouring countless service hours into their local communities, Girl Scouts do fun things, too. They compete in robotics teams, hike in the Cascades, travel to London and more. Older Girl Scouts have the opportunity to earn the Gold Award, which is every bit as prestigious as becoming an Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts.
All of this is supported by cookie sales.
Profits stay within Washington and not only pay for the fun activities that troops do, but also help maintain properties like Camp River Ranch, Camp Robinnswold, Camp Lyle Mcleod and Camp St. Albans. At a national level, Girl Scout camps are on the decline for a variety of reasons, but a big one is the reluctance of modern helicopter parents to send their children away for a few days. This is a shame because residential camping is a golden opportunity for girls to become resilient young women. Keeping camp properties in Washington afloat benefits future generations.
That Girl Scout you see at the front of the grocery store on a cold Wednesday night has grit. She’s not just selling cookies, she’s part of a long sisterhood of women that stretches from the past to the future, and you, buying a box of Thin Mints, helps keep Girl Scouting alive.
Jennifer Bardsley is author of the books “Genesis Girl” and “Damaged Goods.” Find her online on Instagram @the_ya_gal, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as The YA Gal.