MODESTO — The rumble in north Modesto early Monday was big rigs pulling into the parking lot at Big Valley Grace Community Church on Tully Road. But it just as easily could have been the growling of thousands of stomachs anticipating the treats those trucks carried.
Monday was the Girl Scouts Heart of Central California councils massive Mega Drop, at which more than 26,000 cases of cookies (at 12 boxes per case) were delivered to local troops. In an operation that year after year runs like clockwork, troop leaders in SUVs, pickups, vans and other vehicles even an attached trailer and a small U-Haul truck were there paraded through the church lot.
Pallets of cookie cases unloaded from the big rigs were stacked by forklifts into small mountains of cardboard. As troop vehicles moved from Thin Mints to Caramel deLites to others, more than 150 volunteers and Girl Scout staffers loaded them up and double-checked that each troop got its exact order.
Members of those troops now will deliver boxes already ordered by friends, family and neighbors, and starting Friday set up cookie tables outside stores.
While to many of us it seems Girl Scout cookie booths are ubiquitous this time of year, Heart of Central California CEO Linda Farley said Monday: The No. 1 complaint from our public is they dont know where to buy the cookies if a Scout hasnt come knocking on their door.
So if people go to girlscoutcookies.org, they can input their ZIP code and see where cookies are being sold near them, Farley said. The cookie finder gives the dates, times and locations troops have signed up to sell cookies through the season, which ends March 16.
For the most part, the locally available lineup of cookies remains unchanged: Thin Mints, Caramel deLites, Peanut Butter Sandwiches, Peanut Butter Patties, Shortbread, Lemonades and Thanks-A-Lots.
Replacing the Mango Crèmes that were available last year are Cranberry Citrus Crisps, which the Girl Scout cookie website describes as a crispy cookie, made with whole grain, full of tangy cranberry bits and zesty citrus flavor.
Also this year, Girl Scouts Heart of Central California is a test market for the gluten-free Chocolate Chip Shortbread cookie. Only a limited number of troops are selling the cookies, said Alicia Allen, the councils public relations specialist.
Shoppers can try their luck finding those cookies at booths, or if someone were to call (866-472-6657), we would be able to put them in touch with a local Girl Scout selling the gluten-free cookies, she said.
The gluten-free cookies are the latest in the Girl Scouts efforts in recent years to offer something for people who have restricted diets or seek something at least a bit nutritionally redeeming.
In 2007, the Scouts bakeries stopped using trans fats. In 2008, the lineup included Cinna-Spins cookies, which came in 100-calorie serving packets. Last years Mango Crèmes were enhanced with nutrients derived from fruits.
But Girl Scouts of the USA doesnt pretend to be in the health business when it comes to the highly anticipated annual treats, Farley said. People buy Girl Scout cookies to support the Girl Scouts and because they love the cookies.
And www.girlscoutcookies.org notes: Girl Scout Cookies are sold for a short time every year and are considered a snack or special treat. As with all treats, they should be enjoyed in moderation.
Selling cookies teaches girls five leadership skills, Farley said: goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills and business ethics. The sales also provide troops with funds for projects, programs, supplies and outings.
Leila Hosford, an eighth-grader at Cardozo Middle School in Riverbank, is a member of Modesto Troop 4232. Volunteering at the cookie drop Monday, the 14-year-old said her troop uses the money for camp and other trips, such as a visit it made to the Aquarium of the Bay in San Francisco.
Hosford, who wants to be a zoologist, said cookie sales also will help send the troop to the Girl Scouts Seaside Safari camp in the summer. Girls will visit the Sonoma coast to meet African animals on a tour at the Safari West wildlife preserve.
Her troop also uses the money to fund service projects, she said. The girls recently bought fleece and other fabric, then made blankets for animals at shelters.
Danielle Riley of Ceres leads Troop 247, made up of Summit Charter Academy students. We do a lot of service projects on campus, she said, and cookie proceeds make the work possible. With this years sales money, the troop plans to install buddy benches at the school.
The school has a couple of timeout benches, where children are instructed to sit when theyve misbehaved. We thought it would be nice to have a place for when youre not in trouble, Riley said. The idea is that if children are feeling lonely, in need of a buddy, they sit on one of the benches. A Girl Scout, when she sees a child on a bench, then goes over to provide some company.
On Monday, Riley was helping to pick up the 5,500 boxes of cookies her girls have sold. Thats a lot of cookies, but its also a big troop: 36 girls in kindergarten through fifth grade. The girls didnt go door to door to sell all those cookies. Friends and family bought them all.
Theyre easy to sell they sell themselves, thats for sure, Riley said.
The big sellers were the ones youd expect: Thin Mints and Caramel deLites. How about the new Cranberry Citrus Crisps? They accounted for maybe 10 percent of the sales, Riley said. I think theyll do better than the mango cookies last year. These have more potential.