Girl Scouts pay it forward

Published 7:40 pm Friday, April 3, 2015

What to do with hundreds of extra boxes of cookies? That’s the question one local Girl Scout faced back in 2013, when the people to whom she had sold cookies turned around and donated about 150 boxes back to her. Turns out, it’s a common “problem” for Girl Scouts, and troops across the country decide each year what they’re going to do with the extra cookies they have on hand at the end of the distribution period.

Claire Lee and her mother Shannon decided that first year to donate to an organization called Keeping Warriors Outdoors. As part of that effort, they traveled to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where they went room to room, handing out boxes of cookies to wounded warriors.

Recognizing that they had brightened the lives and eased the recovery of soldiers who needed a lift, Claire and her mother remembered the idea, tweaked it a bit and brought it back the following year, this time involving the whole of Troop 5357 in the effort. A total of 800 were available for distribution, a sum that made it possible for the young ladies to make a variety of generous gifts.

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They sent cookies to the families of soldiers killed or injured in the 2012 Midland train accident, in which a freight train struck a parade float en route to a veterans’ benefit in Texas. They sent cookies to Korean War and Pearl Harbor veterans. They visited nursing homes bearing cookies, as well as Vetshouse in Virginia Beach, a nonprofit providing transitional housing to homeless veterans.

Finally, at the end of the year, they visited Washington, D.C., where they handed out cookies at Arlington National Cemetery, gave cookies to random visitors at the city’s monuments and recreated the previous year’s visit to Walter Reed.

This year, the Scouts hope to visit the Langley Air Force base hospital and to send cookies to be distributed on a naval vessel one of the Scouts’ mothers serves on.

The girls could receive traditional incentives like T-shirts and stuffed animals, but this incentive makes a far greater difference and will mean far more to the girls in the long run than any cheap gift they could have received in return for selling cookies. And what a great lesson they learn about paying their blessings forward.