Girl Scout membership up, cookie sales down

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The Girl Scouts of Northern California are reporting record summer camp registration despite a cookie sale slump.

Girl Scouts of Northern California report cookie sales were down sharply this year, which has caused staff layoffs and one camp to close for the summer. But the Girl Scouts are practicing their motto to "be prepared."

The Northern California Girl Scout Council has more than 51,000 girls. Membership is up 7 percent over the past three years, but cookie sales this year were down 6 percent. Chief Executive Officer Marina Park said there are two major issues. The first is that 25 percent of Northern California scouts did not participate in the cookie sale.

"It's a lot of time for the parents to support their daughter, to go door to door, to participate in booth sales and families are really busy," Park said.

The second big problem was that the cookie supplier ran out of the two most popular cookies, Thin Mints and Samoas.

The low cookie sales create a challenge for the scout council which is seeing a big increase in the number of girls signing up for camp. Most girls pay fees to go to camp, but the camps are still dependent on cookie sales to help pay for long term maintenance and improvements needed to bring the camps up to date.

In this undated photo, Girl Scouts learn to ride horses at a summer camp. (KGO-TV)

Park said a year of low cookie sales is a big deal. The council is being forced to lay off some office staff and Camp Deer Lake in the Sierra will not open this summer. The camp needs significant tree work to make it safe and the scouts have to figure out how to pay for that work before they can reopen.

The situation could have been even worse, but Girl Scouts recently raised more than $3 million in donations to start renovating their 12 camps and outdoor centers. The improvements include everything from a new lodge and cabins at Camp Butano Creek in San Mateo County, to new accessible bathrooms and an extremely popular ropes and challenge course at Camp Bothin in Marin County.

The improvements have increased attendance and made it possible to rent camp facilities when Girl Scouts are not using them. Park showed ABC7 News one example, a former barn at Camp Bothin that is now leased to a charter school.

Volunteer labor is also helping, but the Girl Scouts still need to raise millions more to modernize historic camp buildings. The scouts have turned the project into a teachable moment, training girls to do an energy audit of one of the older buildings.

For the first time ever, the Girl Scouts of Northern California will charge a $15 service fee when girls register this fall. That is in addition to $15 already charged by the national Girl Scout organization.

Financial aid is available and officials say they want to make sure no girls are turned away.

Click here to register for camp. And click here to make a donation to help keep Girl Scout camps running.

Written and produced by Jennifer Olney.
Related Topics:
businessgirl scoutsdonationsmoneychildrencaliforniasalesnorthern californiaAssignment 7societyeducationfoodSan MateoMarinSan FranciscoMilpitasWalnut Creek
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