ILLINOIS - It’s officially Girl Scout cookie season, and there are Scouts out in the community selling Thin Mints, Samoas and other favorite flavors.

But while cookies are a popular part of the organization, parents and kids want people to know that the program is about much more than sweet treats. Proceeds from cookie sales provide the funding needed for troops to complete volunteer initiatives, learn new skills and explore the community.

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“The girls enjoy it,” said Stacey Eccles, a volunteer parent from Godfrey with a daughter in the Scouts. “This is how they make their money so that they’re able to do all the events and different things that they’re wanting to do. The girls all have big aspirations and dreams about what they want to spend their money on.”

Last year, the Scouts went to Holiday World and visited Abraham Lincoln’s home. While Eccles isn’t sure what the girls will decide to do with their money this year, she noted that the troop loves camping and will likely choose an outdoors activity.

But the Girl Scouts program has opportunities for all kids no matter what their interests are. From pinewood derbies to robotics teams, Scouts can choose to pursue whatever activities they find engaging. Eccles said that the Girl Scouts program is “much more” than selling cookies.

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“Even with the cookie thing, they work on their entrepreneurial skills and do that kind of stuff, but then it branches out to just being involved with the community and being able to engage with other girls and help all the different ages and different stuff,” she said. “They can get all kinds of different experiences that they might not get in other organizations or at school.”

Eccles’s troop is currently at the Cadette level in middle school, so they are working on their Silver Award project. This award requires them to complete a major service project in the community “to help another organization with their mission,” Eccles explained. The girls are “excited” to be building small animal habitats for the Treehouse Wildlife Center in Dow.

As the girls earn badges and complete projects like this, their community awareness and self-confidence build. Eccles hopes the troop has a successful cookie season so they can continue to fund activities and trips for their local Girl Scouts.

“There are girls out in the community,” Eccles added. “Basically, [the program is about] trying to engage the girls and figure out what their interests are to get them involved in something that they feel like they can make a difference in.”

You can help by purchasing cookies from Scouts. To find where Scouts will be selling cookies, visit the Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois website at GSofSI.org. If you are interested in enrolling your child in a local Girl Scouts troop, email girlscoutserviceunit101@gmail.com or call 314-375-6723 for more information.

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