As the cars lined up, four little girls could barely contain their excitement. Wearing bright blue Girl Scout vests, the members of East Meadow Daisy Troop 1119 stood behind a table filled with boxes of Girl Scout cookies, ready to fill orders.
Traditionally, scouts sell the cookies outside grocery stores or in malls, or go door to door. But because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Girl Scouts of Nassau County have given the girls no choice but to market their highly sought after treats more creatively. The drive-through Girl Scout cookie sale at Veterans Memorial Park, where everyone wore masks and socially distanced, was a first for everyone — the girls, their mothers and troop Co-leader Kim Gonzalez.
Gonzalez’s daughter, Au-tumn, 5, peeking out from a tumble of dark curls, didn’t hesitate when asked what she liked best about taking part. “Because we’re selling Girl Scout cookies,” she said.
Daisy Shannon Burt, also 5, put her arm around Autumn and added, “What I like best is that we’re all together.”
The importance of being together has taken on new meaning for the girls. The cookie sale was the first time they had met in person. Amid Covid protocols, they had seen one another, and Gonzalez, only on Zoom.
“The girls needed something like this,” Gonzalez said. “They don’t, for the most part, know each other. Most are from McVey Elementary, but even if they’re going to the same school because they’re on a cohort schedule, they only see the children that are in their class.
Preparing for the sale
When troop parents Allison Vardakis and Julie Leake heard that the Girl Scouts of Nassau County had approved a pop-up cookie sale in Garden City March 20 and 21, they decided they wanted to have their own drive-through sale in East Meadow.
But Vardakis said she wanted to do a test run first, before presenting a request to the county office. So she and her daughters, Holly, 8, who is a Girl Scout, and Sophia, 5, a member of Troop 1119, set up a table in front of their East Meadow home to see if people would come. “It was a lemonade stand with cookies,” Leake said. “We ended up selling 25 to 30 boxes in 40 minutes.”
Encouraged, Vardakis and Leake officially became “cookie moms” for the East Meadow Daisies, and got to work obtaining permission for the drive-through. It was no small effort, Vardakis said, but Town of Hempstead elected officials were helpful and supportive. Supervisor Don Clavin, Clerk Kate Murray and Councilman Dennis Dunne Sr. worked with the Department of Parks and Recreation to make the event happen.
“We understand the impact that the pandemic has had on people of all ages, especially in the lives of the children in our communities,” Clavin said. “We’re happy to work with the Girl Scouts to provide them with a safer option for their fundraising program.”
The drive-through sale was approved by the Girl Scouts of Nassau County.
“We had to figure out how many boxes we were going to sell, and what we would do if we didn’t sell some of them, because you can’t give them back,” Vardakis explained. “We ordered 129 boxes.”
The cookies sold out quickly. Vardakis had her husband, Andrew, go to the Source Mall, where GSNC has been headquartered since the pandemic began, to get more cookies. “Council likes three hours to prepare, but I called and begged them, because we ran out of Thin Mints in 30 minutes,” Allison said. “Andrew picked up an additional 140 boxes, and when we ran out, we took orders.”
All told, Daisy Troop 1119 sold 338 boxes, running out of cookies an hour early. Vardakis said she finished delivering the cookies that had been ordered on Monday.
The value of the experience
Being a Girl Scout provides an opportunity for girls to meet other girls, make long lasting friendships and is empowering for girls, Vardakis said. She can still remember when Holly was 4 and met a female police officer for the first time.
“She didn’t know that women could become police officers,” Vardakis said. “[County Executive] Laura Curran came to our drive-through cookie sale. It’s important for the girls to see women in leadership positions.”
The cookie sales teach the girls so much, Gonzalez added. “They learn about being entrepreneurs, the value of money, setting goals and how to achieve them,” she said.