Although the Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania officially kicked off the start of the cookie season Jan. 2, booths will start popping up throughout the county Feb. 15, with orders taking place through March 17.
This year, there is a Cookie Locator app available for iPhone and Android users, according to Jen Cullin, membership recruiter for Lycoming, Northumberland, Snyder, Sullivan and Union counties.
"People can also find booths by visiting cookielocator.littlebrownie.com. We will be selling Thin Mints, Samoas, Tagalongs, Do-si-dos, Trefoils, Savannah Smiles, Dulce de Leche and Thank U Berry Munch cookies."
Cullin said there are no new cookie types this year; Savannah Smiles were introduced last year.
The cookies sales are a vital part of the fundraising that takes place within the Girl Scouts organization.
"Today, girls in grades kindergarten through 12 can participate in the Girl Scouts through a variety of approaches also known as Pathways. In addition to the more traditional troop pathway, pathways include camping, attending larger-scale local and-or regional events, traveling domestically and-or internationally, participating in online Girl Scout activities and joining other girls for a 4- to 8-week themed program series around a specific topic or interest," Cullin said. "As Girl Scout offerings for girls have evolved, so have our needs for volunteers and the variety of short and long-term volunteer opportunities that we have available."
Cullin said Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania is seeking volunteers in several capacities, including troop leaders, series program coordinators, event planners and more.
"In Lycoming County alone, we need over 200 adult volunteers to make sure that every girl can participate in Girl Scouting. We currently have approximately 150 adult volunteers," Cullin said. "Many girls are registering for Girl Scouts only to find that their options for participation are limited. Girls wishing to be a part of a troop are being waitlisted due to a lack of adults volunteering as troop leaders."
Cullin said volunteers set their own schedules and time commitment with troop leaders picking their own meeting times, days, locations and frequencies.
Cullin said series coordinators typically run the program for 2- to 8 weeks, meeting once a week. Series coordinators can choose to run an existing series with a set curriculum in place, or can create their own series based on their interests and skills.
Events and travel opportunities can be planned based on a volunteer's interests and areas of expertise, and can be anything from an outing to a local sporting event to attending a council event in York, Cullin added.
"Volunteers do not have to have a daughter in Girl Scouts nor do they themselves have to have any prior experience with Girl Scouting," Cullin stressed. "Anyone - both women and men - who is passionate about our mission is welcome to volunteer. All volunteers have criminal background checks, training and on-going support and guidance from knowledgeable Girl Scout staff along with a network of other local volunteers."
Cullin said girls can join Girl Scouts throughout the year with troops usually starting in the fall and spring. There also are summer day camps and sleepaway camps, too.
"We understand that girls are busy and a lot of them participate in more than just Girl Scouts, so we make sure we are flexible and can accommodate their needs," she said.
Cullin said in the fall, the local Girl Scouts kicked off the Health Promise initiative, which encourages girls to eat well and be active for at least 60 minutes a day through a variety of activities.
"By doing so, this initiative will help challenge girls in grades K-12 to recognize the connection between how they care for their bodies, how they feel about themselves and their ability to make a difference," she said. "The program encourages girls to incorporate hands-on workshops, community service projects, a grade-level specific troop curriculum, online learning and council-wide events into a comprehensive Girl Scout leadership experience."
In the past three years, 14 girls have earned the Gold Award in Lycoming and Sullivan counties, Cullin said. The Girl Scout Gold award represents the highest achievement in Girl Scouting; it recognizes girls in grades 9 through 12 who demonstrate extraordinary leadership through remarkable take action projects that have sustainable impact in their communities and beyond.
In the past couple of years, a Daisy troop in Loyalsock Township held a clothing drive and giveaway, Cullin said.
"They collected the clothes and, with the help of other troops in the area, they separated and folded the clothing and assisted people as they came to 'shop' the giveaway," she said. "Girl Scouts that meet at Cochran Elementary donated a box of craft supplies and cookies to Family Promise and also troops in the South Williamsport and Williamsport areas have assisted in serving meals at the host churches served by Family Promise."
Cullin added that through Bronze, Silver and Gold Award projects, girls have worked with several local agencies, such as Lycoming Animal Protection Society, Wise Options, local nursing homes, United Churches Food bank, Lycoming County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Sojourner Truth Center, Newberry Estates and more.
"Really, we can find an opportunity for just about anyone who is interested in helping us achieve our mission: Building girls of courage, confidence and character, who make the world a better place," Cullin said.
Anyone interested in volunteering should contact Cullin at 266-0116 or email@example.com.