Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri is celebrating the 100th season of Girl Scouts selling cookies.

A century ago, girls started participating in what would evolve into the largest entrepreneurial training program for girls in the world: the Girl Scout Cookie Program®, through which girls learn the essential skills they need to become effective leaders, manage finances and gain self-sufficiency and confidence in handling money.

To commemorate this banner year for the organization, the highly anticipated Girl Scout S’mores™ will be available to order, joining classics like Thin Mints and Trefoils. Girl Scouts throughout eastern Missouri began their door-to-door sales of Girl Scout Cookies Saturday, Jan. 7.

Began With Troop in Oklahoma

The sale of cookies by Girl Scouts had humble beginnings, born as a way for troops to finance activities.

The first known sale of cookies by Girl Scouts occurred in 1917, when a troop in Muskogee, Okla., baked cookies and sold them in its high school cafeteria as a service project.

As the Girl Scout Cookie Program developed and evolved, it not only became a vehicle for teaching five essential skills — goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills and business ethics — it also enabled collaboration and integration, as early as the 1950s, among girls and troops of diverse backgrounds, as they worked together toward common goals.

“By participating in the Girl Scout Cookies Program, our girls gain valuable leadership skills,” said Bonnie Barczykowski, CEO of Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri. “When a customer buys Girl Scout Cookies, they’re helping to power new, unique and amazing experiences for our more than 44,000 Girl Scouts across eastern Missouri — experiences that broaden their worlds, help them learn essential life skills and prepare them to practice a lifetime of leadership. All proceeds — 100 percent — stay local, helping our girls and troops fund their activities, service projects, trips and supplies.”

As Barczykowski mentioned, Girl Scout Cookies not only help Girl Scouts earn money for fun, educational activities and community projects, but also play a huge role in transforming girls into G.I.R.L.s (Go-getters, Innovators, Risk-takers, Leaders)™ as they learn essential life skills that will stay with them forever.

Starting from its momentous, first-known sale, Girl Scout Cookies have gone on to become an indelible part of American pop culture and history—and have enjoyed support from some equally iconic figures and notables. Babe Ruth promoted the Million Cookie Drive during the 1924 World Series. Former First Lady Lou Henry Hoover inspired the first organized national sale of Girl Scout Cookies in 1933, and girls used cookie earnings during this time to help communities cope with the debilitating effects of the Great Depression by collecting clothing and food for those in need.

And when the popularity of Girl Scout Cookies soared higher than expected in 1936, commercial cookie bakers were called in to assist in making the sweet treats.

Last year, the 88th Academy Awards had the audience eating out of Girl Scouts’ hands, with film stars clamoring to buy and munch on cookies during the telecast.

Sold Calendars During World War II

Not even cataclysmic world events have dimmed the popularity of Girl Scout Cookies or the resolve of tenacious and resourceful girls. During World War II, there was a global shortage of cooking ingredients like eggs, milk, and sugar — and Girl Scouts, too, were faced with imposed war rationing.

Girl Scouts sold calendars with images of them engaged in wartime service activities instead of cookies, using some of the proceeds to support the war effort through humanitarian actions like running farm-aid projects, planting victory gardens and sponsoring defense institutes that taught women survival skills and techniques for comforting children during air raids. When postwar prosperity flourished across the country, Girl Scouts employed clever new sales tactics to their advantage.

By going door-to-door and setting up booths in shopping malls, the girls were able to reach customers in innovative ways, as well as sell a brand-new cookie — the now iconic Thin Mints®, which first were produced in 1939 as “Cooky-Mints.”

Nearly 1 Million Girls Participate Today

As the organization entered the latter half of the 20th century, Girl Scout Cookies continued to power once-in-a-lifetime experiences for girls. Whether they used their cookie earnings to attend the Apollo 12 launch at Cape Kennedy, Fla., or microfinance their big ideas to get to the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, cookie earnings have transported, as well as, transformed girls.

Today, nearly 1 million Girl Scouts participate in the Girl Scout Cookie Program, generating nearly $800 million in cookie sales during the average season. All of the net revenue raised through the Girl Scout Cookie Program — 100 percent of it — stays with the local council and troops.

With over 50 million households purchasing cookies every season, the irresistible treats can be found nationwide and will hold a beloved place in Americana for years to come, continuing to help girls take the lead and, ultimately, change the world.

The celebration of 100 years of Girl Scouts selling cookies will kick into high gear during National Girl Scout Cookie Weekend 2017. From Feb. 24 to 26, Girl Scout councils around the country will host events and cookie booths for cookie enthusiasts to get their hands on the iconic treats and join in the fun.

To find cookie varieties available locally or learn more about the history of Girl Scout cookies and the Girl Scout Cookie Program, visit www.girlscoutcookies.org.

To join or volunteer, visit www.girlscoutsem.org and www.girlscoutsem.org/volunteer.