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Girl Scouts of Western Ohio adapt to pandemic, moving forward with cookie season

The Girl Scouts switched much of their programming to virtual to keep scouts safe during the pandemic.

MAUMEE, Ohio — Like many groups, the Girl Scouts of Western Ohio faced many challenges due to the pandemic.

The team moved to a new office in Maumee from Toledo back in May, right in the middle of quarantine. Officials say the biggest challenge has been continuing to provide that programming the girls have come to expect.

Girl Scouts of Western Ohio serves over 9,000 girls from 10 counties in northwest Ohio. 

Christy Gustin, director of regional services for Girl Scouts of Western Ohio, says when COVID hit, they had to adapt quickly because so many of their programs were based on in-person meetings. So they switched to a twice a day Facebook Live format for their programs. 

This change allowed troops to talk to each other and their leaders about STEM activities, dance workshops, outdoor skills, badge work and community service. Each troop was also given a Zoom account to keep in touch with each other for meetings. 

When the summer hit, outdoor camps were cancelled as well, which meant the troops had to get creative again.

"We could no longer send the girls to camps all together in big groups, so we did a subscription camp box where they could get a box mailed to their house," Gustin explained. "Halfway in the week they could jump on with camp staff and participate in some activities and then there was a show and tell at the end of the week where they talked about everything they did with their families."

The pandemic hit right near the end of last year’s cookie season, but it still had an impact. Because last year’s cookie program was cut short, troops lost an average of $900 in sales. 

But once again they got creative to help not only the troops, but also the community.

"We created a program called 'Businesses Bosses Supporting Cookie Bosses,' where we partnered with local businesses who bought some of that local cookie inventory to support the girls directly and mitigate the amount of money girls were going to be out of pocket," said Gustin.

The group also did a buy back program for the troops that had a large amount of inventory left over to help with expenses. Then, they donated those cookies to local food pantries and food programs so the community benefitted from that as well.

Girl Scout workers emphasized the cookie program means so much to the troops.

"The life long skills they’re learning, I mean, they’re learning those communication skills, which are little bit different right now because we are doing things so much more virtually," product sales manager Katie Maskey said. "And we are going to incorporate into our cookie program even more this year than we already have." 

Maskey added that they are pushing online ordering through Digital Cookie. Scouts will be given a link to a custom Digital Cookie website to distribute, to be able to sell cookies online to friends, family and cookie fans.