Girl Scout builds a winner

NEIGHBORS

November 20, 2008|By JANENE HOLZBERG

Nellie Dougherty can be sentimental when it comes to Girl Scout cookies - either that or she just instinctively knows what judges like.

While the eighth-grader confessed that she is torn between two varieties - the dark chocolate-covered, peppermint-infused wafers called Thin Mints and the chewy caramel, chocolate and toasted coconut confections called Samoas - she chose neither for her entry in the Architect of Tomorrow competition.

Instead, as she set about creating her award-winning lighthouse and keeper's cottage from Girl Scout cookie boxes, she picked the Trefoil shortbread cookie to serve as the tower's shining beacon, simply because it is shaped like the Girl Scout emblem.

"It's the oldest cookie, so it deserved the most glory," the Oakland Mills Middle School student said.

Nellie received an engraved plaque for her first-place effort at last week's second Green Carpet Event, which was organized by the Girl Scouts of Central Maryland to recognize top cookie sellers and competition winners.

The council has 30,000 members in Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford and Howard counties and Baltimore City.

Entering the first-time competition was a no-brainer for Nellie.

"I've always liked to build things," said the Thunder Hill resident.

She wistfully recalled a now-dismantled fort she recently helped build from branches and leaves, and then topped with a thatched roof painstakingly assembled from pine needles.

For the lighthouse, Nellie placed empty 9-ounce to 12-ounce boxes two rows high and then glued their flaps together to form its hexagonal shape. She topped the walls with a dome of colored paper strips and hung the Trefoil beacon from a ribbon inside.

She made the cottage from a 12-box cardboard carton of Tagalongs, a milk chocolate-covered peanut butter cookie that is named after the younger siblings who "tag along" to summer camp with parent volunteers. The open-shaped vowels and consonants in the name lent themselves to becoming oval windows, another reason for choosing that variety, Nellie said.

Nellie's entry was deemed the most creative, said Danita Terry, GSCM's director of communications. But the competition was also "another way of engaging the girls" and keeping them interested in Girl Scouts, Terry said.

That isn't a concern in the Dougherty household, for Nellie's allegiance to Scouting is based partly on sentimentality, too.

"I basically saw how much fun my sister had, and that made me want to join," Nellie said about her older sibling, Maura, a freshman at West Virginia University.

But she was also influenced by her mother, Julia Dougherty, and maternal grandmother, Marjorie Madill of Atlanta, both of whom were Girl Scouts. Julia has been Nellie's troop leader since Nellie became a Daisy Scout in kindergarten at Thunder Hill Elementary.

When Nellie's grandmother was a Scout in Massachusetts in the 1930s, the girls peddled their wares door-to-door, but they then baked homemade cookies to fill the orders, Julia said.

Commercial bakeries did not begin supplying the cookies - which enjoy a cult-like following today - until the 1940s, according to the Girl Scouts' Web site.

Thin Mints account for a quarter of the organization's nationwide cookie sales, followed by Samoas, which account for 19 percent. Dougherty estimated that her troop sold 100 dozen cookies this year of all eight varieties combined.

The door-to-door sales continue to be a mainstay of the Girl Scout experience, though there have been many requests from cookie lovers to purchase them online. Instead, aficionados are directed from the site to a local troop from which to buy.

"Selling cookies helps instill confidence," said Julia, adding that all Scouting programs emphasize the three C's - courage, confidence and character.

"If these girls are confident when they're younger, then they won't get into trouble when they're in high school," she said.

Nellie sells cookies each year in her neighborhood, though she said her territory has been "drastically cut into" by new girls in the area with overlapping their sales territories.

Nonetheless, she said she plans to stay in Girl Scouts, at some point earning either a Silver or Gold Award, which are achievements similar to the Boy Scouts' Eagle rank.

"Everyone likes Girl Scouts," said Nellie. "It's just normal."

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