By MAGGIE MENDERSKI
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
Girl Scout Cadette Kristen Ellerman, 11, steadied a Brownie-level sash on a much younger girl and placed a cookie sale sheet in her hand.
The sash was nearly as important to cookie sales as the "please" and "thank you" used in each transaction. The well-known patches and symbols tied the mass of young girls to a tradition of leadership, goal setting and perseverance.
Just as Ellerman had once learned the importance of effective cookie sales, she shared her experience with a much younger group of girls during the 2013 Girl Scout Cookie Rally of Central Illinois at Quincy University on Sunday.
Jessica Foster, program specialist for Girl Scouts of Central Illinois, said the cookie rally polishes skills needed for effective and safe cookie sales. While Girl Scouts thrive on the money raised from the project, they also blossom from the sales themselves.
"They learn a lot of different skills with our program," Foster said. "This gives them an opportunity to reinforce it."
As Ellerman and the cadets coached the young salesgirls, they too honed skills. While years of door-to-door and parking lot sales had perfected their sales pitches, the rally allowed the cadettes to work on their leadership techniques. With a makeshift front door and monopoly money in hand, Ellerman and the cadets talked the Daisies and Brownies through their first sales.
"They seem nervous at first," Ellerman said. "One girl came to my door, and I could barely hear her."
Still, the cadettes remained encouraging. Most of the older scouts remember the nerves from their first year selling cookies. Foster said the younger girls relate to the cadettes more than they would to an adult trying to teach them the same techniques.
The cookie money funds badges, uniforms, camps and even trips for the Girl Scouts. Troop 5220 Leader Melissa Johannessen took her eldest daughter's Junior Girl Scout troop to Myrtle Beach, S.C., with the cookie money. After a couple years of intense cookie sales, the girls rode horses along the beach as a reward for their hard work and diligent budgeting.
"If you save up for three years, it adds up," Johannessen said.
This year, she's teaching her youngest daughter, Emily, and seven other Daisies the basics. The kindergartners colored in a goal poster pledging to sell 1,000 boxes collectively. Johannessen said the organization asks each girl to sell 150 boxes. With eight girls in the troop, 1,000 boxes is a feasible goal for the first year.
"If (Emily is) anything like her sister, she'll sell 500 just on her own," Johannessen said.
This year, Girl Scouts will have cookies in-hand when making sales. Foster anticipates the readily available cookies may boost sales for the troops.
More than 2,600 girls in central Illinois participate each year in regional cookie rallies. These events serve as an introduction to the cookie program, but also bring the entire Girl Scout community together for an afternoon of learning and fun. While the cadettes took turns teaching techniques, the girls also danced, swam and played games throughout the rally.