Three Girl Scouts with North Bellmore roots participated in Operation Hometown Hero, an initiative by the Girl Scouts of the USA that helps scouting groups give back to heroes at home, and overseas.
Members of Brownie Troop 961 and Daisy Troop 969, including Aria Williams, 8, Arianna Coutu, 7 and her sister, Gemma Coutu, 6, all students at Saw Mill Road Elementary School in the North Bellmore School District, attended a cookie send off at the Girl Scouts of Nassau County headquarters in Garden City on May 3, where they met members of the military, Nassau County Police Commissioner Pat Ryder, veterans, state legislators and county, New York City and state police officers. Other Girl Scouts from different troops also attended the event.
The girls’ donated over 100 cookie boxes, and a truck was loaded at the event with some of their donations, to be shipped to a military base in Djibouti, Africa. All of the girls spoke highly of their experience participating in the drive, and of their time thus far in the Girl Scout organization.
The way the troops collected so many cookies for the donation was simple, Arianna explained. “So people bought cookies from us, but if they didn’t really want the cookies, they would say that they want to donate it to the troops,” she told the Herald. “And if you donate a certain amount of cookies, you get to go to one of the (cookie send offs).”
Two additional Girl Scouts from North Bellmore, Nina Hendershot and Lila Radigan, also donated over 100 cookies, but both either attended or are planning to attend a different cookie send off.
Nicole Coutu, Arianna and Gemma’s mom, who’s also a leader in Troop 969, said considering the girls are so young, the concept of military troops is a little hard to understand.
“Events like this really let the girls see who these cookies are going to and allow us to have a conversation about the military, local law enforcement and our hometown heroes,” she said. “They loved being able to hand the cookies directly to our Nassau County police commissioner and hear from the veterans who have received coolies while stationed abroad.”
Krystal Williams, Aria’s mother, said her husband and Aria’s father is a Marine Corps veteran, alongside Aria’s godfather. They both served two tours in Afghanistan, and were honorably discharge with Purple Hearts after surving an IED explosion.
“They often tell Aria stories about receiving the Girl Scout cookies while serving in Afghanistan and the joy it brought to all of them their ‘brothers’ on dark days,” she explaind. “Many of Aria’s cookie donations to the hometown heroes were made by the hometown heroes in our life — veterans, active military and police officers. It was a very special, first circle moment for our family.”
“It’s really fun,” Aria said of the experience. “When you load them into the truck and you’re all next to each other shoulder to shoulder, you feel like you’re an elf loading up Santa’s sleigh.”
The girls recommended that others their age get involved with Girl Scouts, and start taking part in projects that help the community. “It’s super fun and you get to do all these cool activities,” Aria said, “and you get to help the community while you’re at it. You’re doing good and having fun.”