Hallie Salas, left, and Jillian Lazard

Hallie Salas, left, and Jillian Lazard are two of the three members of Ahwatukee Girl Scout Troop 3876 who will be joining thousands of girls selling cookies starting Monday.

Come next Monday, as Gloria Lazard will tell you, a lot of girls will knocking on doors across Ahwatukee and Arizona for what has become perhaps one of the state’s tastier annual rituals – Girl Scout Cookie Sales.

“Everybody will be taking to the streets that Monday,” the Ahwatukee woman said.

She ought to know.

Lazard is a co-leader of Girl Scout Troop 3876.

And with only three seventh graders comprising the troop, her Scouts – daughter Jillian, Hallie Salas and Mahaley Sharmon – have become kind of the junior Wonder Women of Girl Scout Cookie sellers.

The three girls have sold 7,000 boxes of Do-si-dos, Trefoils, Samoas and the other popular flavors in the two years they’ve been together.

This year, their goal is to add 4,000 more boxes to their legacy by the time the sale ends on March 1.

“Four thousand was pretty hard last year,” Lazard said, “but we set that as our goal again.”

The Girls Scouts are changing the lineup a bit, replacing the Savannah Smile cookie with one called Lemon-Ups as an estimated 10,000 members in central and northern Arizona sharpen their entrepreneurial skills to raise money for their own troops as well as their respective state councils.

It’s not so much the cookie flavors that Troop 3876 has going for it as it is the three girls’ determination and drive, said Lazard, who leads the troop along with Hallie’s mom, Lisa Salas.

“We’re out every night,” Lazard said.  

And they just don’t rely on a network of relatives and family friends to get the job done, although Lazard noted “There are people who look forward every year to the cookies.”

They knock on neighborhood doors, making day trips to Lake Havasu, Cottonwood and Sedona and stationing themselves at two Ahwatukee locations – On the Border Mexican Grille and Walgreen’s – where they negotiated exclusive table rights.

They also share time with other troops at “council booths” at Fry’s and Safeway. Those are the booths that the Girl Scouts–Arizona Cactus-Pine Council has negotiated on behalf of all troops, who then reserve time there.

Woodbury, CEO of Girl Scouts–Arizona Cactus-Pine Council said, “The cookie program provides girls the skills they need to be fiscally savvy now, and to become successful, financially independent women.”

Not many organizations help girls learn key entrepreneurial skills, like business ethics and decision-making, Woodbury noted, calling Girl Scouting “the largest girl-led entrepreneurial program in the world.”

 To enhance sales and their personal skills, the Girl Scouts have access to a “Digital Cookie” app with lessons about online marketing and ecommerce and help them collect mobile payments from customers.

The Cactus-Pine Girl Scouts’ sales help local Girl Scouts’ Take Action projects for the community and fund girl-led adventures.

The council also uses some proceeds to provide a variety of programs ranging from STEM to life skills, cover the costs of the cookie program itself and maintain the four camps in the state while providing scholarship for needy Scouts to attend them.

This is only the third year that Troop 3876 has been in existence. Salas and Lazard broke off from another troop to form their own, limiting membership to junior high seventh graders as the youngest. 

But it’s been challenging growing their ranks, Lazard said, “because of everything else girls that age are involved it.”

“With sports and other activities,” many just drift away from Girl Scouts, she said. 

Woodbury said, “Not only is every cookie sale a teachable moment, but because all proceeds stay local, girls are able to enjoy summer camp, robotics programs, field trips and even adventures out of state in a safe environment.

“Sales also have the potential to impact the community as troops reinvest their proceeds with service projects.”

For Troop 3876, that means biweekly meetings to work on projects for the homeless and a faith-based group called Boots in the House that provides aid and comfort to American troops stationed in hospital and remote spots around the world.

The girls make scarves, for example, and then head down to soup kitchens to distribute them.

Jillian is focusing on other ways to help homeless people as part of her project  for her Silver Award – the second highest service award a Girl Scout can earn.

“It was her idea” to focus the girls’ efforts on the homeless, Lazard said, explaining, “They’re at that age where they are becoming conscious of people in need.”

The girls also collect money – and cookies – for Boots in the House, a nonprofit that sends “Cafe Boxes” of goodies to troops in hostile or remote places abroad.

Sometimes cookie customers will ask the girls what they do with their sales proceeds and when they explain, the customers will either give them a cash donation or simply buy a box of cookies – or more – and tell them to send the cookies to a soldier overseas.

“The girls like to pack the boxes for shipment,” Lazard said, and often they contain coffee, tea and other treats.

The council has donated more than 10,000 boxes to charities such as St. Vincent de Paul Food Bank and St. Mary’s Food Bank. Boxes purchased for donations are tax deductible.

The cookies also play into another fundraising effort.

More than 30 restaurants in the Valley have joined the seventh annual “Desert Challenge,” in which chefs concoct a dessert from one or more cookies. Patrons can see participating restaurants and vote for their favorite at girlscoutsaz.org/dessert-challenge.

New this year is a gathering presided over by Renee Parsons, president of PXG Apparel and co-founder of The Bob and Renee Parsons Foundation and the designated “Cookie Boss.”

 Over 100 girl cookie bosses and 25 local CEOs/executives are expected to attend the first Cookie Fast Pitch on Jan. 25 from 8:45 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the University of Advancing Technology in Tempe. 

Participating girls will make their cookie sales pitch to one of the corporate executives and get feedback. CEOs who like a pitch will spend up to $500 on cookies.

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