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Local Girl Scouts won't be selling cookies in person this year, but you can find them online

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Each year around this time, Nipomo resident Riana Banks and her daughter, Kaelyn, gear up to sell as many Girl Scout Cookies as humanly possible. At just 7 years old, Kaelyn is already an established go-getter, and with two years of sales experience under her sash, she knows it's her personal interactions with potential customers that really sell cookies.

"My daughter usually really looks forward to pounding the pavement and going out and knocking on doors," Riana told New Times.

That, however, won't be possible this season. In all its cruelty, the coronavirus pandemic has taken yet another beloved tradition from us: Girl Scout Cookie season.

COOKIE COURIER Due to COVID-19 safety concerns, local Girl Scouts like 7-year-old Kaelyn won't be able to sell cookies in person. Instead, they're leaning on online sales. - PHOTO COURTESY OF RIANA BANKS
  • Photo Courtesy Of Riana Banks
  • COOKIE COURIER Due to COVID-19 safety concerns, local Girl Scouts like 7-year-old Kaelyn won't be able to sell cookies in person. Instead, they're leaning on online sales.

Recent months-long surges in cases of COVID-19 put much of California in the purple tier, and Riana, who also serves as a Girl Scouts troop leader and cookie chair in the Five Cities area, said local troops won't be able to use their usual in-person sales tactics this season. So there won't be any sales booths set up outside your favorite grocery store or local bank, Riana said, and there won't be any Girl Scouts knocking at your door.

But have no fear, for our intrepid Girl Scouts of California's Central Coast aren't going down without a fight. Like essentially everyone else in the world, the Girl Scouts are going virtual.

Most individual scouts already have their own cookie websites through Smart Cookies, an online platform where scouts can track their sales progress and friends and family from out of town can purchase cookies and have them delivered from afar. Riana said local girl scouts are leaning hard on their Smart Cookies sites for sales this season.

To draw attention to their individual sites, Riana said scouts like Kaelyn are making videos, posting on social media, and passing out flyers that contain QR codes linking potential customers to their sites. Recipients of the flyers can take a photo of the QR code on their phones, and they'll be linked to a local scout's Smart Cookies site. There, customers can order all the cookies they desire and have them shipped directly from a bakery or delivered contact-free by a scout. That way, cookie orders can contribute both to the overall fundraising effort and local scouts, who receive prizes when they hit certain sales milestones.

"That's pretty much all we can do as of right now," Riana said, "unless things improve and change throughout the season."

Kathryn Nielsen, director of marketing for the Girl Scouts of California's Central Coast, said that although this year looks different for the Girl Scouts, it's also an opportunity to teach girls real-world tech and digital marketing skills.

"This season is about girls developing a whole new skill set and bringing them into a new digitized way of entrepreneurship," Nielsen wrote in a statement to New Times. "We are focused on the digital and contactless world with enhanced Smart Cookies features and contactless marketing and sales opportunities to enable our girls to gain skills by learning how to build a digital business. Girls are able to adapt to this new business model the entire world is shifting to."

Last year, Nielsen said roughly $1.7 million worth of cookie sales went to local troops on the Central Coast, which includes Santa Cruz, Monterey, San Benito, SLO, Santa Barbara, and Ventura counties. All proceeds stay local, and allow scouts to take trips, explore the outdoors at camp, and fund community service projects.

"When you buy Girl Scout cookies," Nielsen said, "you're helping to power new, unique, and amazing experiences for girls."

Fast facts

• The SLO Legal Assistance Foundation is hosting a free webinar on tenants' rights and protections via Zoom on Feb. 1 from 6 to 7 p.m. There, Foundation Director Stephanie Barclay and Housing Staff Attorney Sadie Weller will discuss California's COVID-19 evection laws and what to expect after the implementation of Assembly Bill 3088. Visit zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_2lI_-EuqTeiW3-BcmXtixg or call (805) 548-0677 to register.

• The Land Conservancy of SLO County reopened the Pismo Preserve to the public on Jan. 11. The area will be open from dawn to dusk every weekday but will remain closed on weekends due to COVID-19 concerns until further notice. Δ

Staff Writer Kasey Bubnash wrote this week's Strokes and Plugs. Send tidbits to strokes@newtimesslo.com.

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