- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 8, 2005

Girls Scouts in the District began their annual cookie drive yesterday with a mission to help more than just themselves. A portion of their collections will go to the tsunami relief effort.

“There are many troops that want to participate,” said Mary Layton, a spokeswoman for the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital. “It’s up to the individual troop, but it happens that because of this disaster many of them want to use the money in this way.”

Girls Scouts in the region hope to sell 4.25 million boxes of cookies, with troops keeping 60 cents from each $3.50 box.

The organization’s national policy prohibits troops from raising money for other organizations, but they are allowed to donate some of their individual treasuries to help others.

The Dec. 26 earthquake that spawned the tsunami in the Indian Ocean has killed more than 147,000 people in 12 countries. Officials estimate that one-third of the victims are children.

Lydia Benson leads her two daughters’ Brownie and Cadette troops in Northwest.

She said the babysitter of a girl in her Brownie troop lost her family in the tsunami so members of both troops want to donate their profits to help other victims, though the plan has not been officially discussed.

“I think it’s great,” said Lida Benson, Mrs. Benson’s 12-year-old daughter and a member of Cadette troop 4070. “After my dad started looking up pictures, I saw the tsunami was pretty big. So I think it’s really good that we’re donating.”

Lida’s sister, Sophia, said she is studying Asia in her third-grade class at Beauvoir Elementary School.

“I didn’t know a tsunami was so big people could drown in it,” said Sophia, 8. “We just saw a slide-show today, and it kind of made me want to give money to the people in Asia.”

The two sisters — along with Girl Scouts Briana Prue, 8, and Campbell Frank, 12 — raced from house to house in their neighborhood yesterday to begin collecting orders for Thin Mints, Samoas and other Girl Scout cookies that have become household names.

“When I was younger, the prizes kind of motivated me,” Campbell said. “But I think it’s easier now because the money is going to tsunami victims.”

Girl Scouts in Gaithersburg’s Troop 1953 are donating part of their cookie profits to help rebuild an orphanage destroyed in Sri Lanka.

An uncle of 8-year-old Brownie member Thulasi Gunartnam owned the orphanage. He, his wife and 28 orphans escaped, but rebuilding the orphanage will cost about $400,000.

The Washington area has the largest number of Girl Scout cookie eaters in the country, Miss Layton said. Last year, residents bought 4.3 million boxes at $3 each for a total of nearly $13 million.

The Girl Scouts was founded as a national organization in 1912 by Juliette Gordon Low, and there have been Girl Scout councils in the D.C. area since 1917. Today, there are more than 50,000 Girl Scouts in the metropolitan area.

Girl Scouts will be selling their cookies door-to-door through January, and delivering orders in February. They also will sell cookies outside stores and supermarkets in March.

“It’s a good time to see what people’s favorites are and see if the Thin Mints still rule,” Lida said. “And I don’t mind eating the leftover cookies.”

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