"We have a whole group of people who would love to buy cookies but don't know a Girl Scout," Callahan said. "A new website, IWantCookies.org, allows anyone to reserve cookies in advance. Then the reservation is matched to a Girl Scout in their area."
And while that new service is technology-based and convenience-driven, it's not a substitute for the human interaction that is essential in teaching scouts certain skills.
"As the girls meet a new person and look them in the eye, they become more self-confident," Callahan said. "And then they're more likely to speak up and speak out - to raise their hand in class to ask a teacher a question, or to stand up for a child who is being bullied."
Aside from honing communication skills, the cookie sales experience teaches girls about setting goals, managing money, being ethical in business and making decisions.
"At an age when parents make most decisions for girls, the Cookie Program empowers girls to make important business decisions," Callahan said. "And girls learn that their decisions really do matter."
The Girl Scout mission is to build girls of courage, confidence and character, who make the world a better place.
"There's more to our cookies than what's in the box," said GSCSA CEO Booth Kammann. "Every box of cookies a girl sells is an investment in her future. Girls will use these key skills throughout their lives."
As always, the safety of troop members is essential. In fact, the girls, their parents, and other volunteers complete safety training to participate in the Girl Scout Cookie Program. And no scout ever delivers cookies alone. Younger girls always have direct adult supervision. Older teens may use the buddy system.
The GSCSA covers Tennessee from the northeast region to Chattanooga and serves Virginia in Lee, Scott, Washington, Wise, Russell, Smyth and Dickenson counties. It also stretches into Northwest Georgia.
Troops have been preparing for the sale since fall, according to Callahan, and money earned stays within the council area. Scouts use profits for educational activities, field trips, supplies for activities to earn patches and badges, or community service projects. Community service projects include adopting a family over the holidays to provide them a meal, hosting special events at assisted living homes, purchasing and delivering items for shelters, purchasing and planting flowers beautification projects, or purchasing school supplies to donate to children in need.
Also new this year, customers may purchase and donate cookies to members of the Army National Guard and Air National Guard from Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia through the "Building a Mountain of Hope" program. All cookies remain $3.50 per box.
Girl Scouts will take orders through Feb. 10 in person or through IWantCookies.org. Cookie deliveries and booth sales are March 1-24. For more information, visit the Girl Scouts of Southern Appalachians on Facebook or www.girlscoutcsa.org. Or call 1-800-474-1912.