Girl Scout cookies come to the Pacific Northwest pretty late compared to the rest of the country.
Right around the end of February and beginning of March, after many of the other 110 nationwide councils have finished their sales, the Girl Scouts of Eastern Washington and North Idaho start knocking on doors, hitting up their parents' co-workers, and setting up booths in front of grocery stores to sell boxes of cookies.
It's something that the organization touts as building entrepreneurship in girls, and it's also the main funding mechanism for activities.
In fact, for the Council of Eastern Washington and North Idaho, which covers all of Washington east of the Cascades and Idaho north of Moscow, cookie sales bring in 70 percent of annual revenues, says council CEO Brian Newberry.
But this year, just as girls were ready to start getting the boxes customers had preordered, and the extras ordered to sell in front of stores, the coronavirus started spreading.
Newberry was forced to make a tough call: Cookies have to be put on hold.
That means about 600,000 boxes of cookies are sitting in warehouses in Spokane and the Tri-Cities, waiting for when distribution seems healthy and feasible. Until then, revenue collected upon cookie delivery won't be available for the various summer camps, day camps, and STEM programming the council puts on, not to mention activities the cookies fund for individual troops.
"I wasn't here in 1933 when our council opened, but it's not a far leap to say depending on how things turn out — we don't know, the last chapter of this story hasn't been written — but today, March 19th, is one of the most dire challenges our council has faced," Newberry says. "We're really in a bind right now."
Last year, the Inland Northwest council was number three out of the 111 total councils in the country in their ability to deliver cookies, Newberry says.
"We've just never had a torpedo at our revenue stream like this in so dramatic a fashion," he says. "Our girls are counting on this."
But he points to the strength demonstrated by Girl Scouts founder Juliette Gordon Low, who once said, "The work of today is the history of tomorrow, and we are its makers."
"Juliette Gordon Low was a tough lady," Newberry says. "We're just hoping we can weather this, and again, Girl Scouts can have sunshine tomorrow."