Girl Scout Lola Ferguson of Green and her mother Lindsay Ferguson pose for a photograph in Roseburg on Wednesday. Lola has pre-sold Girl Scout cookies and will be delivering them once they arrive in February.

Lola Ferguson loves selling Girl Scout cookies because it gives the 9-year-old a chance to meet people and improve herself. Thanks to a worldwide pandemic, Lola has been forced to adapt to a new reality — selling cookies with far less interaction with people.

“It kind of sucks that I can’t interact with people. I really enjoy asking people and having that interaction with people and just Girl Scouts in general,” Lola said. “I think this will teach me how to adapt quickly to stuff.”

She’s not the only one.

The coronavirus pandemic has forced many Girl Scouts to switch to a “hands-off” approach to cookie sales this year. While some might still host in-person booths and door-to-door sales, most are encouraged to adapt to a more contactless approach. This will come in the form of virtual cookie booths and online ordering through the Digital Cookie platform.

For Lola, switching to a socially distant sales season means distributing door hangers on the houses around her neighborhood and utilizing social media, as well as sending emails to returning customers through her Digital Cookie website.

Lola has been in Girl Scouts for five years. Last year she chose to become a Juliette — a solo Girl Scout without a troop — in order to pursue her own activities and goals. Cookie sales are one of her favorite parts of being a Scout.

“I joined Girl Scouts because I like helping people, doing good deeds and selling cookies,” Lola said. “I have learned that I am getting better at math, like doing it in my head because you have to be fast to get to the next customer. I have also learned to have better social skills and how to be more open to the world.”

Usually, Lola sells around 800 boxes of cookies, but this year she is hoping to sell around 300 boxes to raise enough money to attend an overnight Girl Scout camp. Thankfully, she is relatively familiar with the online sales platform, as she uses it to sell to family across the country. The social media aspect of her campaign will be somewhat new.

“I want to focus on online because it is safer for my family and the people I live around,” Lola said. “We are going to use social media and that kind of stuff. We are also going to do a Facebook Live, which sounds really fun.”

Calypso Vander Velden is also a Juliette Girl Scout acquainted with online cookie sales. Calypso has Spinal Muscular Atrophy, a degenerative genetic disorder that affects all the muscles of the body. Because of her disorder, her communication is limited to non-traditional means, but her mother says cookie sales have helped her daughter grow.

“I have just watched her blossom. During one of her cookie seasons, just the way she would talk to everyone, when before she couldn’t even really make eye contact,” Vander Velden said. “She has built such confidence. It has been amazing for her and how she can use it to grow into her own.”

Calypso has been in Girl Scouts for over three years. Two years ago, she sold enough cookies to purchase a wheelchair accessible swing for her school district. That goal is currently on hold because of the tax logistics of being without a troop, but the monies are ready for whenever the plan can move forward.

According to Celia Vander Velden, Calypso is relieved to focus on a digital approach. Often, in-person booths would cause the 9-year-old anxiety. They gave her an opportunity to grow, but the risk of catching ill even before COVID-19 scared her. Now, with the push towards online sales, Calypso can focus on having fun.

“She is really excited that there are no booths this year. This has been a silver lining experience for her,” Celia Vander Velden said. “She’s like ‘yay, I can do it online. I can do a video!’ She is really happy.”

Online cookie sales will open nationally on Monday. Using the Buy Cookies portion of the Girl Scouts website will allow interested parties to find cookie sales in their area, including from both Lola and Calypso. The Girl Scout Cookie Finder can also help locate a local Girl Scout and place an online order.

Erica Welch is the special sections editor for The News-Review. She can be reached at ewelch@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4218.

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Erica Welch is the special sections editor for The News-Review, mother of two and a native of Roseburg. She is an alumni of RHS, UCC and Western Oregon University. Contact her at ewelch@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4218.

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