Part of being a Girl Scout means learning at a young age to overcome adversity, whether it’s a customer saying, “No, thanks” to your cookie pitch or being run over by a car.
The car mishap that led to a broken arm is one of many travails that members of Troop 5897 in Davenport have faced in the past two years. The mothers of two of the girls have died during this time, another girl’s family lost many possessions in a house fire, and one girl wears a heart monitor to gauge her anxiety levels.
The girls soldier on, however, now with the promise of the trip of a lifetime during their March spring break to visit the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Most of these 9- to 11-year-olds have barely traveled outside of Scott County, but if they can sell enough Girl Scout cookies, they’ll earn their way West.
At their weekly meetings at Jefferson Elementary School, the girls practiced how to approach customers.
“When they tell me they don’t have much money, I tell them, ‘Well, one box is only $3.50,” Rebecca Clay, 11, said confidently at this week’s meeting.
The girls are learning more than how-to-sell skills. The cookie drive teaches them about goal-setting, decision-making, people skills and business ethics.
Araceli Sanchez, 10, is learning more math skills while selling.
“I’ve learned how to manage my money better and managing the change you have to give back to the customer,” she said, beaming.
Their Scout leader, Brittany Dawson, had the idea to put them in front of a lot of people at one time to give a big boost to their effort. She contacted the marketing company for the Iowa/Illinois Regional Auto Show and received permission to put up a cookie booth, alongside other vendors, at this weekend’s show at the Davenport RiverCenter.
“The lady at Nissi Marketing in Davenport thought it would be a great idea, a welcomed difference from the usual vendors,” Dawson said.
The girls have almost 10,000 boxes of cookies ready to sell this weekend, and have been told that some 100,000 people attend the auto show.
Girl Scout cookie sales began Feb. 2. Before that, the troop held their own bake sales, including three days over the Martin Luther King Jr. weekend at Walgreens on East 53rd Street in Davenport, where they made $700. Last fall, they conducted a candy and nut sale.
They also developed and sold a $5 recipe book — with the girls providing cover art work — featuring desserts using Girl Scout cookies.
“Right now, we’ve earned about $2,500 for some girls to go on the trip,” Dawson said. “But we’re going to need at least $7,000 and probably more.”
“They’ve learned how to count by three-fifty,” Dawson added. That involves some tricky math since that’s the cost of each box.
Dawson said each troop keeps 50 cents per box. The Girl Scouts also will send cookies overseas for military troops if customers donate a box for that, and the girls get an extra quarter per box in those cases. The money is used to help girls whose families can’t afford the $12 membership fee, to help pay for summer camp for girls from low-income families and to buy prizes for champion sellers.
“Girls who sell 2,000 boxes can get an iPad,” Dawson explained.
She said some of the car dealers have made donations to the trip fund, and the girls have cookie-selling locations lined up every Saturday and Sunday through March.
Scouting provides a support group for the girls, as well as the usual activities. Eleven-year-old Cheyann Ulman was riding her bike down a hill two years ago and couldn’t stop, running into a car.
“And it ran over my arm and broke it,” she recalled.
She said she’s grateful for her Girl Scout friends who helped her get back on her feet. “They’re like my sisters, and they made me feel good.”
Diamond Davis, 10, tells about the old lamp that started sparking and eventually burned part of her family’s home.
“We still live there, but part of it is boarded up,” she said, “and we’re storing a lot of our stuff next door at our neighbor’s house.”
These challenges have improved the girls’ perseverance and persistence. And for stubborn customers who beg that they don’t have cash for those cookies: the girl’s financial literacy includes taking debit and credit cards.