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Cookies keep Girl Scouting alive, strong


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One of the most visible aspects of the Mississippi Valley Girl Scout council is the annual Girl Scout cookie drive which supplies about half the funding for scouting programs. Pictured is Girl Scout Jessica Wages displaying a cookie order form.

ROCK ISLAND -- The Mississippi Valley Girl Scout program is alive and growing strong with about half its funding coming from the sale of its notable cookies.

In a cost-cutting move involving closing three Girl Scout camps last year -- Shabonee near Port Byron, Piper Hills near New Windsor and Sacajawea near Muscatine -- the lone camp, Conestoga near Dixon, Iowa, will see more and more activities, including an equestrian program that was formerly housed at Piper Hills.

``We operate on a $2 million budget,'' said Mr. Rick Schloemer, fund development/marketing director. ``Of that, one-half of the money comes from the annual cookie sale'' which ran Jan. 23 to Feb. 8.

Of the $3 per box cost, the breakdown of distribution is about: 83 cents for the cookie company, delivery and training packets; 6 cents for girls' recognition for camperships, T-shirts and patches; 2 cents for administrative cost of printing, postage and bookkeeping; 30 to 45 cents goes into troop treasuries; and 1.63 to 1.78 goes to outreach, training and support of the local scouting program, including a toll-free phone line for volunteers.

A total of about 750,000 boxes of cookies will be ordered this year. The cases are sent to a local warehouse and eventually sent out to the ``Cookie Lady'' for distribution to the local troops. At a later time, cookie booths will be set up to sell the leftover and over-ordered cookies.

``One of our highest priorities is the safety of the Scouts,'' said Mr. Schloemer. ``Because of growing safety concerns, there are safety tips on the cookie order form for the Scouts to follow and we have a book, ``Safety Wise,'' for additional safety tips.''

Because the Mississippi Valley Girl Scouts encompasses a large area, funding comes from other various sources including eight United Ways from 10 counties along with grants from foundations and businesses, and public donations.

Girl Scouts range in age from 5 to 17 years and advance into different groups along the way beginning with Daisy, Brownie, Junior, Cadette and Senior Scouts.

The Mississippi Valley Girl Scouts, numbering 4,684 girls, are located in 15 counties, 10 in Iowa and five in Illinois. The Illinois counties are Rock Island, Henry, Mercer, Warren and Knox. There are 1,335 older Scouts and volunteer leaders.

Juliette Gordon Low organized the first Girl Scout Troop in 1912 in Savannah, Ga., with 18 members. The local Girl Scout Council charter was formed in Rock Island County in 1921 and merged in 1973 with the Riverbend and Shabonee councils to form the present council.

In 1982, the Girl Scout program moved to a new building in Rock Island on land given by the city to build the program center and council office. The building was constructed with the offices located in the lower level and a program area upstairs that can be used for overnight campouts. An observation tower is also located within the building and is an excellent viewing point for watching eagles along the Mississippi River in the winter. Because of the large staff, several staff offices are located upstairs, but more activities are anticapated to take place in the upper program area.

``The board consists of 30 volunteer board members from all over the counties,'' Mr. Schloemer said. ``Half are men and half are women. They come from a variety of professions -- engineer, farmer, CEO, as well as former Scouts.''

The scouting program depends on dedicated volunteers and a program that continues to help girls develop values. The girls can work on an individual or group basis for specific projects and earn badges for their accomplishments.

Badges come in all colors, shapes and sizes to represent accomplished tasks and recognitions. The five main patch catagories are World of Well Being, World of People, World of Today and Tomorrow, World of Arts and World of Outdoors. The local council also has developed its own patch to honor Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Among the council's plans are the development of program centers -- not necessarily on council-owned property -- which could serve group programs and weekend activities, as well forming partnerships with other organizations.

They also will be seeking volunteers who will inspire, motivate and lead the future of the young girls.

-- By Judy Meirhaeghe (February 9, 1998)

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