Girl Scouts Leave No Cookie Behind

Times Staff Writer

This is not child's play.

Oh sure, charming and chipper Girl Scouts will start knocking on Orange County doors today to deliver box after box of Thin Mints and Samoas.

But there's nothing cute about the trail of these cookies. No, this delivery system is like a well-oiled machine -- scheduled to the minute and meticulously planned with all the thoroughness of a military operation.

"We're Girl Scouts. We're organized. We're prepared," said mom Jodi Hess, better known as the "cookie diva" to 37 troops in Orange.

On Friday evening and throughout the day Saturday, Hess helped coordinate the distribution of 2,354,640 boxes of cookies destined for Orange County buyers.

On a recent night, she was firing off e-mails at 1:12 a.m. to remind each of the cookie managers in her distribution zone of a few rules. Among them: Be prompt, no open-toe shoes, and be sure cars are clean of any "kid stuff" to maximize cookie space.

Cookies were doled out all across the county Saturday. The same process took place in Long Beach and repeats itself next weekend in Los Angeles.

"It's the biggie for the Girl Scouts," said Girl Scout Council of Orange County spokeswoman Gail Ellis-Olds.

Sixty cents of each $3 box goes directly to the troop. Another percentage goes to the council, making it the organization's biggest fund-raiser. And with corporate donations down, sales are even more critical.

So it's no wonder Girl Scout leaders have a binder full of information about how to pass out the cookies. There's even a cheat sheet that says how many cases fit in each car -- 75 cases or 900 boxes in a full-sized SUV. And each troop cookie manager must attend a training meeting.

"I begin to sound like a broken record: Please do not be early. Please do not be late. And please bring a car big enough to load the cookies," said organizer Donna Witteborn, who returns each year to help with distribution even though her children left the Girl Scouts years ago.

"I think I've seen it all and heard it all over the years," Witteborn said. "One woman came in a sports car and high heels and she couldn't understand why she couldn't fit 40 cases of cookies into the car."

Girl Scout Stephanie Keating, 11, who volunteered to load cookies, saw a little of that in Orange, though all the problems she encountered were solved with a little careful packing.

In Orange, the troops appeared like clockwork every 15 minutes.

In Huntington Beach, Witteborn used a drive-through warehouse to work twice as fast.

Patrice Geasey, cookie manager for Troop 2076 in Orange, pulled up in her van at 3 p.m. "Right on time!" Geasey said.

She glanced at the boxes stacked in a long row almost as tall as some of the Girl Scouts. "Are those really all ours?"

Just to be safe, Geasey drove her van with all but the front seats removed. Her friend drove his truck. They needed both.

Several girls and a few parents, old pros at this now, lined up in a "cookie conga line," passing the Tagalongs, then the Samoas, then the Do-Si-Dos as if they were hot potatoes.

"My arms hurt and my back hurts," said Allison Nerell, 13. "We've been lifting boxes all day!"

But after the last case was passed out, the girls cheered. And they were already looking forward to today.

Julie and Renee Lee of Santa Ana will deliver 28 boxes to their neighbor across the street.

"She's always bugging us, asking, 'Where's my cookies?' " Renee Lee said. "And I said, 'Guess what's coming today?' "

The girls agreed: The best part is delivery because "people are always smiling," Allison said.



Cookies by car

On Saturday, 2,354,640 boxes of cookies will be distributed in Orange County to 1,800 troops and 20,000 scouts.

How many cookie boxes can you cram into a car?

Full-sized station wagon: -- 900 boxes

SUV: -- 900 boxes

Two-door compact: -- 276 boxes

Hatchback: -- 300-360 boxes

Delivery van no seats: -- 2,400 boxes


Source: Girl Scout Council of OC

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