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Sweet! It's Girl Scout cookie time

LYDIA GAG holds up boxes of Thanks-a-Lots and Peanut butter sandwich cookies.

They're out this weekend -- little girls in brown, blue and green vests pushing little circles of delight on unsuspecting civilians.

They're the Girl Scouts, and it's cookie time.

"Everyone knows them; everyone loves them; they've been around forever, and so they're pretty easy to sell," said Devona Janousek, who has two daughters in Girl Scouts ... one is a Daisy and one is Brownie.

As they celebrate the Girls Scout's 100-year anniversary, roughly 100 area girls from Detroit Lakes, Frazee and Lake Park will be carrying out an old tradition that began in 1917 -- five years after the inception of the Girl Scouts of America.

Although back then the scout's mothers baked the first cookies (sugar cookies, similar to today's Shortbread) in their own kitchens, it only took until the 1930s for them to go commercial.

Today, the girls happily peddle Thin Mints, Caramel deLites, Peanut Butter Patties, Peanut Butter Sandwiches, Lemonades, Shout Outs, Shortbreads and Thanks-a-Lots.

Caramel deLites and Thin Mints are the most popular.

"They say if you lined the amount of thin mints sold every year end to end, we'd go to the moon and back six times," said Julie Storsved, who has been in charge of the service unit's cookie sales for six years. "They sell more thin mints every year than they do Oreo cookies ... and in a short amount of time."

For the second year, the girls will be doing a direct sales format, which means they'll have the goods in-hand.

"Nation-wide they say that should increase sales by about 30 percent when people can get the cookies right away," said Storsved, adding that sales in the Detroit Lakes area have actually been down for past two years.

"About four years ago, we sold around 10,000 boxes -- last year it was about 8,000," said Storsved, who attributes that to a slightly declined membership, a tougher economy and a membership group that has a lot of older scouts.

"The younger girls really do tend to be more gung-ho about selling," she said.

One of those "gung-ho" girls is fourth-grader Lydia Gag.

"I go door to door with my mom," said Lydia, "I like doing that because it earns more money."

Fellow fourth-grader Payton Schiltz is also one of those excited to start pounding the pavement.

"Selling cookies is actually really fun," she said smiling, "I go up to people by myself and ask them and if they say no, I just say, 'thank you.' If you don't know them you can get a little nervous, though."

Working through those nerves and keeping track of cookies and profits is also part of the package deal for the young sellers.

"I think it teaches them the basics of business," said Janousek, "At home we sort them all out, take inventory and then I work with them on how to ask people to buy. They collect the money, put it into our account and they get to see if you work hard and earn your money then you get to do something fun with the troop."

"Last year I sold about 300 boxes," said sixth-grader Amy Lundstrom, "I like doing it though because then I get to buy some too and eat 'em."

According to the Girl Scouts' website, the cookie-selling process should provide the girls with five skills: goal setting, decision-making, money management, people skills and business ethics.

But not all of the lessons learned are on selling and business -- some end up also being on philanthropy.

"We plan on donating half of what we make to a little Detroit Lakes baby who was born with the inability to blink or smile," said Girl Scout Troop Leader Jennifer Smith, adding that the money donated will go to help the family make it to a conference on the infant's rare disease.

I just think it teaches the girls that it's OK to work hard for somebody else, and I think they will actually bust butt to sell even more because they know it will help him."

This is not an uncommon act for Girl Scouts to do, as the goal in being a scout is to learn how to be a leader.

Storsved says she had a troop once that donated part of their sales to Relay for Life.

"We can't sell on behalf of other organizations, but we can choose to donate to them," she said.

Out of the $4 that the girls sell each box for, their troop earns 50 cents of that.

The sale goes through March 24.