GSHPA’s Cookie Story Finds Success

Janet Donovan
President and CEO
Girls Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania

A recent Associated Press story regarding unsold Girl Scout Cookies on a national level highlighted the challenges that many Girl Scout Councils faced as we emerge from a nationwide pandemic. This was not the story for Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania.

Like many nonprofits and businesses, Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania (GSHPA) was not immune to the trials COVID-19 forced upon our organization.

But we met those challenges and in many ways exceeded our goals. Our Girl Scouts thought like entrepreneurs. We found creative and innovative ways to reach our membership, our volunteers and to continue to implement our important girl-led programs. Those connections were especially crucial to many girls in our membership during this time of unprecedented isolation.

GSHPA, which represents 30 counties in central and northeastern Pennsylvania, worked hard to seek out that success during this past cookie-selling season, which officially ended in April.

We are proud of our efforts!

In fact, our local inventory controls, unlike the overall theme of the AP story, were actually tighter this year than in years past.   

We did have fewer Girl Scouts participating in the program this year, but our program leadership, which collaborated with every department in our organization (as well as neighboring Girl Scout Councils), projected, budgeted and adapted appropriately.

We found new and exciting ways for our Girl Scouts to sell safely both online and in-person, which included holding traditional cookie booths.

Here are some key highlights:

·         In our S’mores Executive Club, which is an exclusive club that spotlights our brightest entrepreneurs who go above and beyond our product program efforts, the number of girls reaching that benchmark in 2019 was 94. In 2021, that number was 138, an increase of 46 percent.

·         In that same time period, our Girl Scouts increased their average number of cookie packages sold from 178 to 231.

·         When COVID hit in 2020, Girl Scouts sold about 300,000 packages that year in direct sales. This year, and under most of the same conditions, our planning paid off. Our Girl Scouts sold more than 580,000 packages.

In fact, when our council began our booth sales for 2021, we couldn’t meet the initial demand.

“Although our booth opportunities were down 50 percent this year (locations where businesses allow us to sell directly) our girls created safe and innovative ways to continue to reach their goals. During the first two weeks of our direct sales in March, we connected with a sister Girl Scout Council to purchase cookies from them so as to meet the demand of our local entrepreneurs,” said Jess Delp, GSHPA Director of Product Program and Retail.

We are also very proud of the overwhelming success of our 2021 Gift of Caring program. This council-wide service project gives our GSHPA community the chance to donate cookies to military troops overseas and other nonprofit partners.

This year, Operation Gratitude was the recipient of our Gift of Caring initiative, and we easily surpassed our goal of donating 30,000 boxes to troops. Donations were up by 60 percent! Those donations are a testament to the giving nature of our local Pennsylvania communities.

It’s important to note that all proceeds from the Girl Scout Cookie Program remain local and help to fund all of our programs: our camps, outdoor programs, STEAM, leadership training and more.

We know that we will continue to face many challenges as we tackle the rest of 2021 and plan for 2022. But the lessons learned during these past 15 months have certainly shown us that we can adapt and find success in the most trying time period in recent history.

We are grateful to note that we have a strong and resilient GSHPA community to thank for our support as we move forward and we thank the central Pennsylvania community. Your support allowed us to experience the success that we enjoyed.

How you can help

GSHPA has received questions regarding how to reduce the excess cookie inventory of our sister Girl Scout Councils. We appreciate your outpouring of support!

To help, please visit digitalcookie.girlscouts.org/scout/girlscouts2021 where you can donate cookies to first responders, food banks, and other worthy causes. In addition to helping other Girl Scout Councils with their cookie inventory, part of your donation will support local GSHPA Girl Scout Troops as well.

Thank you!


PA’s State Parks

As we gear up for a summer of camping and getting outdoors, I’m excited to share about some of our State Parks within our council footprint for Girl Scouts to check out this summer! Did you know that the parks of America go by many different names? The most common is usually a state or national park, but names can also include national forests, wildlife areas, recreation trails, natural areas, as well as many other names. Yosemite became the first national park in 1872, and not too long after Pennsylvania designated its first state park Valley Forge in 1893. Today Pennsylvania has 121 state parks, many of which can be found right inside our council. My list below is only a few of our state parks, but you can check out a full list here to plan your summer outdoors! 

Codorus State Park 

Located in the southern part of our council, the land of Codorus was originally used for industry, and had the first coal burning furnace west of the Susquehanna River. One of the founders of the area, George Ross, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and even introduced George Washington and Betsy Ross! With over 3,500 acres, visitors can experience fishing, bird watching, swimming, hiking, camping and more.  

Pine Grove Furnace State Park 

Also in the southern part of our council is Pine Grove Furnace State Park. Originally used as an Iron Works during the Civil War and beyond, John Birkinbine became the lead engineer for the company in 1878. Dismayed by the dwindling forests in Pennsylvania, Birkinbine eventually went on to be a founding member of the PA Forestry Association after the Iron Works was shut down. In 1913 the land was sold to the state and was turned into the state park we know today. Some of the original buildings from the Iron Works are still standing today and can be visited. This park is the halfway point of the Appalachian trail, so you can also hike the trail and visit the Appalachian Trail Museum! 

Rothrock State Forest 

Named after Dr. Joseph Trimble Rothrock, also known as the “father of forestry” in Pennsylvania, this state forest boasts more than 96,000 acres! This is a great place to visit to see a forest “at work”. Protecting rare plant communities, timber harvests and gypsy moth containment are all examples of this.  

Frances Slocum State Park 

Located in the northern part of our council near Scranton, this park is named for Frances Slocum, a young girl from Wilkes-Barre who was kidnapped by a group of Delaware Indians in 1778. The Native Americans traveled north and west, and Frances traveled with them, eventually assimilating to life with the tribe, and even refusing to return home with her brothers when they finally found her 59 years later. This park features the Patrick J. Solano Environmental Education Center, which features ecology programming and an exhibit on the indigenous people of the area.  

Badges You Can Earn 

2021 Global Action Award 

  • This award has several steps to it, however visiting a state park to learn about how climate change has impacted the trees, wildlife, marine life, and other parts of the environment is one of the steps! 

Daisy Trail Adventure  

  • Girls will plan and go on a hiking adventure for this badge, and a short trail for beginners at a state park would be a great introduction to hiking and our state parks.  

Brownie Hiker  

Brownie Outdoor Art Creator 

Brownie Trail Adventure 

Junior Animal Habitats 

Junior Camper  

Junior Trail Adventure 

Junior Outdoor Art Explorer 

Cadette Trailblazing 

Cadette Primitive Camping 

Cadette Eco Trekker 

Cadette Trail Adventure 

Senior Adventurer 

Senior Trail Adventure 

Senior Paddling 

Ambassador Trail Adventure 

Ambassador Survival Camper 

Ambassador Ultimate Recreation Challenge 

This list contains only 4 of the many state parks available to us in Pennsylvania. This summer I challenge you to check out a few of our awesome state parks, and get outside and moving. You can even take your state park trip and use it as an experience toward earning one of the badges I mentioned above. Let us know in the comments which state park is your favorite to visit! 


Written by Colleen Sypien