Think about cookies and you're likely to think about Girl Scouts.
The Girl Scouts have been selling cookies to fund their educational activities since 1917. And lately they've been selling about 200 million boxes of cookies every year.
In the beginning, the Girl Scout magazine, "The American Girl," promoted cookie sales as a way to raise money for each local unit — and the magazine even provided recipes for the girls to bake the cookies. By 1936, the national Girl Scout organization was purchasing cookies from commercial bakers and distributing them for sale by local troops.
Fewer girls sell the cookies door-to-door now than in the past, but most of the top sellers have their contact lists organized and locked in well in advance.
Favorites like Thin Mints and Samoas are still around, while a few varieties — Golden Yangles, Aloha Chips and Daisy Go Rounds among them — have been phased out over the years.
Most of the money raised by the cookie sales — about 70 percent — stays with each area council, helping to fund essential services to the scouts such as providing program resources and communication support, training adult volunteers and conducting events.
Locally, cookie sales are organized by the Girl Scouts of Kansas Heartland council, which serves over 16,500 girls in 80 Kansas counties. The council has offices in Emporia, Garden City, Hays and Salina.
The cookie sales program is designed to teach girls five skills: goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills and business ethics.
The Girl Scouts website quotes one cookie seller talking about what she learns in the process: "When I sell cookies with my Girl Scout sisters, I make my own decisions, like how many boxes I want to sell, how to explain to people the good that comes from buying a box of cookies, and how hard I'm working to make my goal! We all have to agree on what we'll do with the money, which means talking it out and being okay with sometimes not getting my way. And I have to figure out how to solve problems, like what to do when one of the girls is sick and can't help out. My decisions matter. I'm responsible. There's no looking to mom or dad for help."
Chandra Lay, MVP specialist for the Girl Scouts of Kansas Heartland, said "Our 2013 sales have been better than expected, in fact they've been fabulous."
Lay attributes the high sales to at least two factors: the new mango creme cookie and direct sales.
"This year the girls actually have the cookies in hand rather than taking orders. That's made a big difference — it's instant gratification. And, although we weren't sure how the new mango cremes would go over, they've been a big success. We've run out of them three times already," Lay said.
Page 2 of 2 - Lay said the funds raised by area girls is distributed to several layers of the organization.
"Each girl who sells earns cookie credits based on their sales. They can use those credits to pay for Girl Scout merchandise or programs. Then a portion stays with the local troops, a portion goes to the service unit to help fund staff and a portion goes to the national organization."
Although you've probably been contacted by a girl scout already, if you haven't and you'd like to purchase a supply, the fastest way is to call the Girl Scouts of Kansas Heartland offices at (620) 276-7061 or call 888-686-MINT.
You can also go to the Girl Scouts website at www.girlscouts.org where you'll find a locator which will help you request information by E-mail from your local Girl Scout council. Or visit kansasgirlscouts.org.
There's even an app to do that. Google Play has an Android app and the Apple App Store has one for Apple products.
But time is critical. Girl Scout cookie sales for 2013 end March 10.
Follow Don Steele on Twitter @Don_dcglobe.