- Associated Press - Monday, January 23, 2017

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Elizabeth Schmid considers selling cookies her second-favorite thing about Girl Scouts.

It’s a close second, but the Bridge Creek Middle School seventh-grader ranks riding horses at Camp E-Ko-Wah near Marlow “just above cookie sales.”

“One of the things that I like about riding horses is whenever we jog, or trot, you can feel the wind going through your hair. And it feels really nice,” the 12-year-old said.

Fortunately, her talent for selling tasty treats makes it easier to wrangle trail rides. One of the top three cookie sellers in the Girl Scouts Western Oklahoma council, Elizabeth, a Cadette, and her friends in Troop 3306 often use the money they raise peddling Thin Mints, Samoas and Tagalongs to fund their summer outings at Camp E-Ko-Wah.

“(It’s) a lot of hard work getting out whenever it’s snowy or icy, going door-to-door, doing cookie booths,” said Elizabeth, who sold more than 3,600 boxes of cookies last year and hopes to move at least 3,000 this year. “Me and my friends can get out and sell cookies together, and I can go after my goals.”

As Girl Scouts across the country prepare for this year’s cookie season, the excitement is extra sweet because 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the first known sale of cookies by Girl Scouts - a tantalizing tradition that started in Oklahoma, The Oklahoman (https://bit.ly/2iDga4s ) reports.

The first known sale of cookies by Girl Scouts occurred in 1917, when the Mistletoe Troop in Muskogee baked cookies and sold them in their high school cafeteria as a service project. According to Girl Scout history, the troop set out to make Christmas bags to send to Oklahoma soldiers in the 142nd Infantry Regiment at Camp Bowie in Fort Worth, Texas.

“In our council, we’ve always prided ourselves as being the home of the first known sale of Girl Scout cookies,” said Roberta Preston, president and chief executive officer of Girl Scouts of Eastern Oklahoma, which covers 30 counties in the eastern part of the state, including Muskogee.

“Everybody’s just excited to celebrate.”

The council is planning a 100th anniversary cookie celebration Jan. 21 at three venues in Muskogee’s Depot District: the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame, Muskogee Little Theater and Three Rivers Museum. The festivities will include cookie tastings, live music and craft activities. The museum will have on view a special exhibit of Girl Scout cookie memorabilia, along with the bronze outdoor statue of a scout and her cookie boxes that is part of its permanent collection.

Preston said more than 900 Girl Scouts already have registered to attend the celebration, which is open to the public.

In honor of the 100th anniversary of cookie sales, Girl Scouts of the USA is cooking up a new cookie. The Girls Scout S’mores have a creamy chocolate and marshmallow filling sandwiched between two graham cookies.

“What says Girl Scouts more than S’mores?” said Misti McClellan, public relations and communications specialist for Girl Scouts Western Oklahoma, which covers 39 counties in the western and central parts of the state.

The S’mores cookie is made with natural flavors and contains no artificial colors, high-fructose corn syrup or preservatives. She said the delicious new offering is adding an extra layer of enthusiasm to cookie season.

“The girls are getting excited, the troops are having their cookie rallies, everyone is just starting to hear the message and feel that kind of energy. By the time the cookies get here at the end of this month, we are just ready to go,” McClellan said.

“It’s our Super Bowl.”

Cookie sales officially begin Feb. 3 for the Western Oklahoma council and Feb. 4 for the Eastern Oklahoma council. But girls can start selling cookies once they have them in hand, McClellan said.

Once booth sales begin next month, Thin Mint fanatics can use the Cookie Locator smartphone app to track booths near them. Girl Scouts also can use the Digital Cookie platform to sell the sweet snacks.

“The girls that use Digital Cookie sell so much more . because they’re able to reach out to their friends and family across state lines and really promote their own Girl Scout cookie business,” McClellan said.

“These are 21st-century girls, and we’re wanting to offer them 21st-century skills that will keep them competitive in the marketplace and give them the advantage that we feel like all Girls Scouts will have.”

As the Girl Scout Cookie Program has developed, it has become an outlet for teaching five essential life skills: goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills and business ethics.

“Most people focus on the cookies, but really, for us, the product sale program is the world’s largest girl financial literacy program,” Preston said.

This year, Girl Scouts will be peddling classic cookies like chocolate-y Thin Mints, chocolate-coconut Samoas, shortbread Trefoils, oatmeal Do-si-dos, chocolate-peanut butter Tagalongs and lemony Savannah Smiles for $4 a box. The gluten-free Toffee-tastic and new S’mores cookies are $5 a box.

Nowadays nearly 1 million Girl Scouts participate in the cookie program, generating almost $800 million in sales during the average season. All of the net revenue raised stays local, Preston said, and is distributed among the girl, her troop, her service unit (a geographic assembly of troops) and her council.

With their cookie credits, troops may opt to support local nonprofits, go to camp or take a trip. Along with summer camp, Elizabeth Schmid said her Bridge Creek troop has saved its cookie money to go this year to Savannah, Georgia, to visit the birthplace of Girl Scout founder Juliette Gordon Low.

“The girls will select what’s meaningful for them, and they’ll make that decision as a troop,” Preston said. “We encourage girls to learn about things, to discover the world around them, to discover what they like. . And we encourage girls to be good citizens within their community.”

Oklahoma City teenager Katie Francis and her Girl Scout Troop No. 3469 have used their cookie funds to take a cruise to Mexico, donate school supplies to an orphanage in Cozumel and support numerous local nonprofits.

“One thing that I really do enjoy is giving back to the community and being able to make an impact,” she said. “I get to go out into the community and meet a whole bunch of people. And I get opportunities like this to share about what I do and help inspire other people.”

The Putnam City North freshman’s cookie outcomes also have included TV interviews with “Fox & Friends” and “Inside Edition,” an exclusive tour of the Girl Scout national headquarters in New York and Mashable.com spoof of her cookie-selling techniques.

In 2014, Katie made international news when she sold 21,477 boxes of Girl Scout cookies to smash the world record set in the 1980s by “Cookie Queen” Elizabeth Brinton, who shifted 18,000 boxes in a single cookie season. In 2015, the Oklahoma girl sold 22,200 boxes to break her own single-season sales record - and set a new goal for the cookie sale centennial year.

This year, she’s trying to sell enough cookies to crumble Brinton’s record of 100,000 boxes in her Girl Scout career. Katie figures that counting what she sold before 2014, as well as during the 2016 season, she needs to move 14,493 boxes this year to reach her goal of selling 100,100 boxes in her career to date.

“I think this will be my most specific goal yet,” the Girl Scout Senior said with a laugh.

Not only is cookie season her favorite time of year, the 14-year-old said she likes the idea of being part of Oklahoma’s illustrious Girl Scout cookie history.

“I think it’s cool,” she said. “I can’t wait for the next girl to come along and make her history, continue the legacy and make another world record.”

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Information from: The Oklahoman, https://www.newsok.com

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