By Jasmine Rockow

The Bulletin

PRINEVILLE — Girl Scouts in Oregon and southwest Washington added a digital component to their cookie sales repertoire Saturday, to the delight of Central Oregon cookie aficionados and Girl Scouts alike. Prineville Troop 50797 welcomes the new tool, saying it will help them overcome challenges unique to living in a community with more farms than city blocks.

Rebecca Reed, 14, lives 6 miles outside of Prineville’s city center, and all the homes in her neighborhood are on 5-acre parcels, said Jennifer Reed, Rebecca’s mom and troop leader.

“She wouldn’t really be able to walk around, so we drive into Prineville and try to do walking around in town,” Reed said. “In our rural community, it’s not as easy as going around in Portland, where there’s block after block (of homes). Rebecca doesn’t go out to the farms.”

The organization’s push to go digital allows scouts to sell cookies to friends and family members in other areas of the country with ease, while introducing them to the concepts and practices of e-commerce, said Sarah Miller, of Portland, spokeswoman for the Girl Scouts of Oregon and Southwest Washington.

The Prineville troop will hold booth sales every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from Feb. 20 to March 15. They only accept cash and checks, which can hurt their sales.

“A lot of people want to pay with a credit card, because people don’t usually carry cash with them anymore, so this will really help them,” said Katy Norris, 14.

In the past, the troop used a mobile credit card reader that plugs into a cellphone to accommodate customers without cash, but the credit card fees were too high. “It’s taking out of our money that we get for our trips and supplies,” said Rebecca.

Bend Girl Scout Elizabeth Hummel, 12, of Troop 50025, said the website will make it easier for her to sell more cookies, especially to her relatives in Colorado.

“You don’t have to send them multiple emails,” Elizabeth said. “They can just look on (the website) and order cookies.”

Elizabeth aims to sell 1,500 boxes this year. She also hopes to be the top seller in her region, a title claimed last year by her best friend and troop member Amy Moyer. Natalie Hummel, cookie mom for her daughter Elizabeth’s troop, expects the website to help Elizabeth sell an additional 200 boxes. She said Elizabeth has always sold cookies to relatives in other states, but it created a lot of legwork for her on the back end.

“We get all the cookies here, and then I’ve got to package them up and pay the postage to mail them to all our family members,” Hummel said. Because of this, Elizabeth only reached out to close family members in the past, but now she’ll be able to reach a much broader group of extended family and friends from all across the country.

Each scout has a personalized website, accessible by invitation only. Once customers receive the link to a scout’s website, they can order cookies online and choose one of two delivery options. Local customers can ask that scout to deliver their cookies personally or pay a small shipping and handling fee to have the cookies mailed to them from a distribution center. Those who wish to support a troop without eating cookies can buy boxes that will be donated to each troop’s designated charity, an option called Gift of Caring. Girl Scouts will continue booth and door-to-door cookie sales, which begin Feb. 20.

The Internet can be a dangerous place, especially for young girls. To minimize the risks, the Girl Scouts organization instituted rules that each scout must agree to before personalizing her website. They are not allowed to email strangers a link to their website, or post on sites such as Craigslist and eBay, Reed said. Scouts and their parents can decline a customer’s request for hand delivery, and scouts under the age of 13 must share the site with their parents. And because the sites are invitation-only, they will not turn up on a Google search, Miller said.

“They’ve done a great job making it safe, and given a very nice-looking Web page,” Hummel said. “I think this will be very cool. I’m anticipating it will be well received, but we’ll have to wait and see when we send it out.”

Each scout’s website contains a biography that describes how long she has been in Girl Scouts and what her troop plans to do with the money earned from cookie sales.

The Prineville troop aims to sell 2,000 boxes this season. The money earned will go toward its goal of raising $6,000 for a trip to Savannah, Georgia, birthplace of Girl Scouts founder Juliette Gordon Low.

“I think it’s just fun to hang out with people that I’ve (gone) to school with, and get to hang out even more, and go on trips together,” said Prineville Girl Scout Shelby Squier, 13.

Bend Troop 50025’s cookie money will fund a summer trip to a treehouse park in Idaho, Hummel said.

“There’s so many other Girl Scouts around the world, and it’s nice to connect with them,” Rebecca said. “Every Girl Scout is a sister … it’s like, we’re friends, I got you. I guess it’s just nice to have the feeling that there’s so many other Girl Scouts and you’re all sisters.”

— Reporter: 541-383-0354, jrockow@bendbulletin.com

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