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'Everything Started Going Crazy': North Florida Girl Scouts Selling Cookies Amid A Pandemic 

Girl Scouts Troop 107 Ambassador Darian Pisano, a junior at P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School, and her mother Colleen Pisano stand at their cookie booth outside a supermarket in Gainesville. This is their 10th year selling cookies. (Audrey Mostek/WUFT News)
Girl Scouts Troop 107 Ambassador Darian Pisano, a junior at P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School, and her mother Colleen Pisano stand at their cookie booth outside a supermarket in Gainesville. This is their 10th year selling cookies. (Audrey Mostek/WUFT News)

Ambassador Darian Pisano of Troop 107 in Gainesville loves selling Girl Scout Cookies.

Her first season, 10 years ago, she found that selling 1,000 boxes would mean a free week of camp. Most Girl Scouts sell 200-300 boxes a season, but Darian reached her goal. Last year, the 17-year-old junior at P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School sold 3,504 boxes.

“This year, because of everything, my goal is only 1,500 again,” she said recently.

By everything, Darian means trying to sell cookies during the coronavirus pandemic.

In-person booth sales of Girl Scout Cookies typically happen January to March.

“I think I did like my last booth literally the day before, like, everything started going crazy,” Darian said. “Which I got really lucky, because I was still able to meet my goal in time.”

Like almost every industry or organization with storied traditions nationally, the Girls Scouts is adapting to the pandemic by offering new ways for its girls to sell cookies. The sales account for each troop’s efforts to provide the programs essential to their existence.

The Girl Scouts Gateway Council’s 14,000 girls across North Florida will abide state and federal safety guidelines, said Mary Anne Jacobs, the council’s chief executive officer.

The council still will allow girls to sell cookies at in-person booths, Jacobs said. However, she said, “You will not see a girl – and if you do, send me an email – at a booth without a mask, maybe two, and all the other COVID accoutrements that we have all become accustomed to.”

Jacobs said the council is also promoting use of the statewide online sales platform “Digital Cookie,” which was started in 2014. It allows customers to have their cookie orders shipped to their homes or offices – and or request contactless delivery by a local scout or her guardian.

There’s also a new national partnership between the Girl Scouts and Grubhub, the online food delivery service. Customers can place their cookie orders like one would a restaurant order.

Darian’s mother, Colleen Pisano, who is often beside her daughter at the cookie booth, said she is happy the Girl Scouts are incorporating modern means of sales.

“I think that's amazing,” Colleen Pisano, 51, said. “Welcome to the 21st century.”

Darian said her troop is also considering having its girls all during the same weekend sell cookies via drive-thru booths – essentially, having customers pull up to a curb – to minimize contact.

Morgan Lackey, 17, an 11th-grader at Buchholz High School in Gainesville, said she would prefer sticking with standard booth sales.

“In the past, I didn’t really do digital sales,” Morgan said. “I mean, I always set it up, and I sometimes got sales from family members, but mainly I do in-person.”

This year, however, Morgan thinks her digital cookie sales could go up because of the pandemic.

COVID-19 has also forced council and troop leaders to rethink their overall programming.

“We knew first and foremost that girls’ mental health in this pandemic was going to be a critical factor in helping them move forward and adapt,” Jacobs said.

The scouts have taken part in virtual workshops with professionals who wouldn’t normally be at troop meetings. Last month, for example, 250 girls engaged virtually with female scientists from Johnson & Johnson, Jacobs said. The council also held its first virtual summer camp in 2020; attendance surpassed that of any previously held residential camp, she said.

“We will never go back to just in-person programing,” Jacobs said.

Some troops in North Florida are still doing some in-person events.

Troop 2177 Cadette Julia Klein, 12, a seventh-grader at Howard W. Bishop Middle School in Gainesville, was among those who attended a recent in-person campout.

“We had to wear masks the whole time, but still, like a handful of people went,” Julia said. 

Speaking generally about the past few months, she said, “We did virtual meetings, and we still do some virtual meetings in Girl Scouts, but now we just wear a mask and do them in person.”

Julia’s mom, Jillian Klein, says the troop guardians decided to transition to some in-person programming towards the end of the summer.

“We all kind of agreed that it was worth getting together, that, you know, they’re a small group,” Jillian Klein said of the scouts. “They can sit outside. They can wear masks if they go inside.”

Darian and Morgan said Troop 107 is hoping its combined cookie sales will help pay for a group trip to Europe once it’s safe to travel again.

“We’ve been saving and planning this trip basically since I started being a Girl Scout,” Darian said.

Audrey Mostek is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.