There’s Fort Knox, and then there’s Sarah Shepherd’s garage.
While there’s no gold in Shepherd’s garage or the satellite facility where she also stores her treasures, folks who savor the taste of Do-Si-Dos and Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies would find plenty to make them happy at the Shepherd fort.
Shepherd is product sales manager for the Girl Scouts Little River Service Unit in Blount County. She got involved in the management end of things about six years ago when her niece joined Girl Scout Troop 376 in Blount County.
“When I was in fifth grade, I said I wanted to be a Girl Scout leader when I grew up. I always loved the cookies,” Shepherd said.
So Shepherd volunteered to be the troop’s “cookie Mom” even though, technically, she was an aunt.
Shepherd has been helping with the Girl Scouts for five years now and this is her fourth year being product sales manager. “Now I manage the sales for all of Blount County, and I also manage our Cookie Cupboard, a satellite warehouse here in Blount County,” she said. “The key is protected by a guard cat.”
Managing the cupboard means she distributes the cookies to the troops locally who then sell them to customers.
Her job this year, however, is especially sweet. She is now officially a “cookie Mom,” as her daughter Sophie, age 5, is a Daisy Scout.
“She thinks she’s been a Girl Scout all of her life. As long as she been alive, there has been a garage full of cookies every February or March,” Sarah Shepherd said. “She gets so excited for people to come. To have her be part of the cookie sale now is great. She is a lot more excited to help out and always helps haul cookies to cars.”
Since it is her first sale, Shepherd and Sophie went together around the neighborhood. Shepherd said her daughter was a little hesitant to get going. “Once we got started, her innate social butterfly came out, and we went all over the neighborhood,” Shepherd said. “It is a lot of fun to see her have such a good time with it.”
Shepherd said the dollars and cents of selling Girl Scout cookies helps, even though the full $3.50 doesn’t go directly into each troop’s bank account.
“Of the $3.50, the troops get to keep on average about 50 to 55 cents. It varies but roughly a $1 of the price goes to pay for the cookies and a portion goes to cover the cost of incentives for girls for selling. The rest of it goes to the council. It all stays in the Council of Southern Appalachians, and helps pay for things like the upkeep of camps, training leaders and providing programming.”
Little River Service Unit manager Barbara Hatcher said the unit sold well over 100,000 boxes of cookies in Blount County in 2010. “What actually stays in the troops then would be probably around $50,000 to $60,000,” Hatcher said.
Like Shepherd, Hatcher has a daughter in Girl Scouts and like Shepherd, Hatcher worked herself into a leadership role in the Little River Service Unit.
Hatcher said when her daughter Emily, now 13, was in first grade, Hatcher wanted her to be in Girl Scouts. “I helped with her troop and as the girls got older, and I took on a leadership role of her troop and I got very involved with the Service Unit in planning events and helping with activities,” she said. “Our previous service unit manager had a baby, so I stepped up and took the position.”
This is Hatcher’s eighth year volunteering with Girl Scouts and her first year as service unit manager.
“We have close to 70 troops in Blount County,” she said.
Hatcher said about 800 girls who are kindergarten through 12th grade make up the Little River Service Unit. “We have the largest service unit in the Girl Scout Council of the Southern Appalachians, which is primarily East Tennessee and a few counties in Southwest Virginia and Northeast Georgia,” she said.
Hatcher said she was in Girl Scouts growing up and always liked the tradition of the organization. “As the Girl Scout song says, I like girls to ‘make new friends but keep the old.’ Right now my girls are in seventh and eighth grade, and they’re making new friends but we still need to remember our old friendships,” she said.
Girl Scouts teaches girls good lessons, said Hatcher. “They try new stuff and go new places and do things they’ve never done. Even with the cookie sale, it is a great way for the girls to get out of their comfort zone in terms of meeting new customers and trying to sell the cookies. They practice public speaking and have to come out of their shell to talk to people.”
Hatcher said the girls learn the importance of budgeting to raise money for activities as well as community service projects. “We hone in on math skills and business skills. We try to find ways to meet their goals.”
Shepherd said most of the Girl Scouts get excited when the cookies arrive. “You’ll see them at the booths at Wal-Mart or Kroger, and they’re excited by the interaction,” she said. “I don’t know if they realize what lessons they’re getting in teamwork, leadership, marketing and money management, but they are learning.”
Hatcher said it is satisfying when the girls sell that last box of cookies. “It is gratifying to know we’ve done our best. It is nice to know they gave their all. It’s a team effort. The parents are involved as well, and we’ve come together as a team,” she said.
By the end of the campaign, Shepherd said she usually is glad the work is done. “It is long, tiring and intense, but I love it,” she said. “I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t love it.”
Girl Scout cookies in this area are baked by the Little Brownie Bakers in Louisville, Ky. Pre-sale of the cookies began in January. Delivery of the cookies and the Girl Scout Cookie public sale begins Friday, Feb. 25, at area grocery stores, malls and department stores. The sale continues through March 20.
Local troops also participate in the Gift of Caring program. Through Gift of Caring, customers can buy cookies to donate to those serving in the Armed Forces, local food banks and other charities.
There are eight types of cookies being sold this year:
• Do-Si-Dos are a peanut butter cookie with peanut butter filling. There are approximately 20 cookies in the 8-ounce box.
• Dulce de Leche is a vanilla cookie with caramel chips. There are approximately 15 cookies in the 6-ounce box.
• Lemon Chalet Cremes are a cinnamon-ginger lemon-filled cookie. There are approximately 14 cookies per 8-ounce box.
• Samoas are a vanilla cookie covered with caramel on top and bottom then rolled in coconut and striped with chocolate. There are approximately 15 cookies per 7-ounce box.
• Tagalongs are a regular cookie with peanut butter on top and coated with chocolate. There are approximately 15 cookies per 7-ounce box.
• Thank U Berry Munch is a cookie with cranberries and white fudge chips. There are approximately 14 cookies per 6-ounce box.
• Thin Mints are thin, chocolate-peppermint cookies coated in chocolate. There are approximately 32 cookies in a 10-ounce box.
• Trefoils are a shortbread cookie. There are approximately 44 cookies in a 10-ounce box.
To contact the Girl Scout Council of the Southern Appalachians, call the Knoxville office at 865-688-9440.