CEO Update: COVID-19 updates, Cookie Program recap, Volunteer Appreciation Month, and more!
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CEO Update: COVID-19 updates, Cookie Program recap, Volunteer Appreciation Month, and more!


Dear members and friends of Girl Scouts of Northern California, 

I hope this update finds you and your families in good health. Today’s update includes information about the ways that Girl Scouts is supporting girls and families during this time, and how we are responding to COVID-19.  

  • Programs and events: extending our “no in-person events and meetings” rule to June 1, 2020
  • Supporting girls and families
  • Appreciating our volunteers
  • Working together to keep our communities healthy
  • Summer camp and property reservations
  • 2020 Cookie Program—a roller coaster, for sure
  • Virtual annual meeting and spring town halls

Programs and events: extending our no events or in-person troop meetings rule from May 11 to June 1, 2020 

We are following the shelter-in-place and CDC guidelines. Because all California schools are now closed through the end of this school year, we recently extended our no events or in-person troop meetings rule from May 11 to June 1, 2020. Check in online at norcal.gs/COVID-19 for continuing GSNorCal COVID-19 updates.

Supporting girls and families 

I appreciate the thousands of volunteers and families who are finding creative ways to build community and support girls during this time of physical distancing, loss, and uncertainty. Research about helping kids respond to and recover from a crisis stresses the importance of nurturing resilience through:

  • Connection
  • Routine
  • Belonging
  • Expression
  • Participation
  • Empowerment 

This is what Girl Scouts does every day—providing sisterhood, supportive adults, and special experiences to our girls through thick and thin. It is inspiring to see volunteers whose worlds have been turned upside down still finding creative ways to connect with Girl Scouts at home.

Girl Scouts around the nation are sharing ideas and resources about new ways to learn and belong. Our GSNorCal team is curating and creating resources for troop leaders, families, and girls on our Girl Scouts at Home page.

Volunteers are sharing ideas on social media, and are organizing virtual troop meetings and camporees. Here is just one example, shared on Instagram: “Haily’s troop leader wanted to encourage her Girl Scouts with the #shelterinplace. When Haily opened the door, she found a care package from her troop leader, complete with craft supplies and a Shelter-in-Place journal.” 

Appreciating our volunteers

I think Haily’s smile says it all—Girl Scout volunteers are awesome. Girl Scouts happens because of you, and our world is a better place because of you. Thank you for all that you do for girls and for our communities.

April is Volunteer Appreciation Month, and now more than ever is the perfect time to say “I appreciate you” to the Girl Scout volunteers in your life with a fun e-card

Working together to keep our communities healthy

We know how sad this time is for many of our girls (and parents), not only because of cancelled Girl Scout events, but also because they miss their friends and are losing end-of-school year traditions and graduations. We appreciate our volunteers and staff who are finding creative ways to make up for some of this disappointment and disruption. It was super sad to have to cancel Golden Gate Bridging this year and disappoint 6,000 girls and volunteers who worked hard to plan for this once-in-a-lifetime experience. We are all learning about resilience and being thankful for the health and relationships that we have.

For girls who worked hard selling cookies to earn experiences this year, while we hope to re-schedule, we can’t make any promises, yet—we simply don’t know when venues like the Academy of Sciences and Turtle Bay Museum in Redding will able to plan and host large gatherings. We appreciate your patience. I am committed to getting together (as I have each of the past three years) with this year’s top cookie entrepreneurs. This year, an incredible 85 girls sold 2,000+ packages of cookies! If large gatherings are not possible, then we will find a way to connect virtually until we can get-together in person. We will adapt (however long it takes)!

GSNorCal Ambassador Girl Scout, Aarushi, launched #hearts2art (on Instagram) and is using her talent to educate and inspire all of us.

Summer Camp and Property Reservations

We all hope that our lives will return to normal this summer. Unfortunately, there are no guarantees. We are monitoring guidance from public health officials and the American Camp Association, and we are meeting with other Northern California summer camps to compare notes on summer camp contingency plans. Our Outdoor Program team also is working closely with our volunteer run resident and day camps to help GSNorCal make the best decisions, not only for the health and safety of our members, but also for the long-term health and safety of our communities.

We are continuing to register campers for council-run summer camps at Bothin, Hidden Falls, Skylark Ranch, and Sugar Pine, and will, of course, issue full refunds if, due to COVID-19, we must postpone or cancel any council-run camps or camp sessions. Many troops and service units had fun outdoor adventures planned for this spring and summer. We know this is a stressful time to plan ahead, so anyone who chooses to cancel a GSNorCal property reservation before August 31, 2020, will receive a full refund.

2020 Cookie Program—a roller coaster, for sure

Thank you to all of the troops, families, and girls who participated in the 2020 Cookie Program. This year’s big celebration for 600+ package cookie entrepreneurs is planned for the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk on June 13. I hope we will still be able to hold our celebration as planned—we will, of course, have to wait and see, and follow public health guidelines. The Boardwalk will be a fitting place to celebrate. The iconic Big Dipper Roller Coaster pretty much sums up this year’s Cookie Program. We had huge highs, we had some scary lows, and, in the end, we came through it, together.

Entrepreneurs in action: Our cookie entrepreneurs moved into e-commerce and cashless payments in big ways this year

  • 836,000 packages were sold through 9,950 Digital Cookie storefronts
  • Troops saved $117,265 in credit card fees using Digital Cookie
  • Credit card acceptance increased the per-girl package average from 181 to 201 packages

We also saw some wonderfully creative entries in the Bling your Booth, Perfect Pitch, and Goal-Getter challenges.

Perfect Pitch winner: Check out this award-winning, support-our-first-responders Perfect Pitch from Victoria from Troop 61750!

Goal-Getter winner: The Goal-Getter challenge celebrates Cadette, Senior, and Ambassador girls who set big goals that cookie proceeds help them achieve. Congratulations to Quincy and her Cadette Troop 62071, who set their goal by calculating their budget to attend camp, plus donate to their local food bank. They reached their goal in the first 3 weeks of the program with the help of Digital Cookie and each girl attending 3-5 booths each week.

Bling Your Booth winner: Congratulations to this year’s Bling your Booth winners from Troop 31993!

Cookie entrepreneurs are responding to COVID-19! Because of COVID-19, we ended the in-person cookie program early this year, and our council agreed to accept returns of cookies that troops were unable to sell. We extended the online Digital Cookie program one week, to help girls and troops reach their goals.

At the time that we made the decision to accept returns of cookies, we could not know how many cookies would be returned to our council, but we were prepared for a major financial impact. Our troops rallied to support each other and our council with ideas about how to sell cookies through our e-commerce Digital Cookie platform. Here is one example from a troop volunteer who posted on Twitter, her troop’s success in collecting donations for cookies that they then donated to first responders.

Thanks to an incredible effort, we did so much better than we thought possible—we expect only about 100,000 returned boxes due to COVID-19, and our total boxes sold slightly exceeded the original goal that we set for this year!

With most other revenue sources for our Girl Scout council disappearing or at risk, from Golden Gate Bridging and other events to rentals, retail, and camp, it is a huge relief and a huge credit to our volunteers and girls that they were able to run such successful businesses with this year’s cookie program.

Some of our sister councils had to end their cookie programs even earlier than we did, and these councils, troops, and girls are struggling to meet their goals. It is still possible to support our sister councils and cookie entrepreneurs online.

Virtual Annual Meeting and Spring Town Halls

Annual Meeting: Our 2020 Annual Meeting is moving from Camp Bothin to a webinar, with electronic voting. We have a limit of 250 participants, and first priority will be for our voting members and nominees. If you would like to attend as a guest, to receive a link to the annual meeting webinar, please send an email to Michelle McCormick, Chief Mission Delivery Officer, at mmccormick@gsnorcal.org. Michelle is counting participants and will provide meeting webinar links on a first-come first-served basis.

Town Halls: Before COVID-19 changed so many plans, I had announced town halls this spring in eight locations around our council. We will now re-schedule these town halls as virtual meetings. Stay tuned! Our topics will be similar to the topics we plan to discuss with members at the annual meeting: state of the council, our COVID-19 response and recovery, strategic priorities for our next three-year plan (2021-2023), and proposals to be discussed at the next National Council Session (currently planned for October 2020).

Gratitude

I appreciate, so much, all that you are doing to provide a place where girls can connect with friends and know that they can make a difference during these challenging times. Our communities will need our Girl Scout can-do spirit and leadership more than ever in the months ahead.

With gratitude and appreciation for each of you, best wishes for your health, and special thanks to all of the helpers and essential service providers among us,

Marina H. Park, CEO
Girl Scouts of Northern California