News & Politics

The Girl Scouts Celebrate 100 Years

Local Girl Scouts CEO Lidia Soto-Harmon talks to us about how the organization remains relevant—and just where all that money from cookie sales goes.

Girl Scouts Council of the Nation’s Capital CEO
Lidia Soto-Harmon. Photograph courtesy of the Girl Scouts of the Nation’s Capital.

The Girl Scouts celebrated their centennial anniversary in
March, marking 100 years of singing-along, camping, earning badges, and learning lessons of leadership. The Girl Scouts Council of
the Nation’s Capital is celebrating this milestone in fine
form with events ranging from this weekend’s Rock the Mall,
during which a projected 200,000 girls will form a flashmob on
the Mall, to the unveiling of a wax figure of Girl Scouts’
Juliette Gordon “Daisy” Low, at Madame Tussaud’s.

Recently we chatted with Girl Scouts Council of the Nation’s Capital CEO
Lidia Soto-Harmon about the impact of the nonprofit on Washington and how Girl Scouts have remained relevant for a century.

Let’s get the question on everyone’s mind out in the open: Where does all the money from the cookies go?

For every box of Girl Scout cookies sold in this region, 70 cents goes back to the troops to fund programming and to help
them do good deeds. This past year more than $3 million went directly to the troops to do good works.

The money also helps maintain our eight camp properties and scholarships for girls whose families can’t afford Girl Scouting.
We give about $600,000 a year in financial assistance to low-income families in the Washington area.

How do you balance teaching young women healthy living habits while also promoting cookie sales?

All Girl Scout cookies are trans-fat-free, and we
teach that moderation is important. Also our organization is more than
the cookie program. We’re camping, we’re hiking in the woods,
we’re part of the Let’s Move! initiative. We’re well-rounded;
that’s the important thing.

How has Girl Scouts changed since 1912? What steps has the organization taken to stay pertinent to girlhood over a century?

You know, I think one of the reasons Girl Scouting has
remained relevant over all these years is that at the core, what the
organization is all about is girls’ voices and girls’
interests. As a result, though things have changed, the Girl Scouts
have remained all about leadership and empowering girls to do
whatever they want to do.

I’m also realizing now that my daughter is a teenager
that girls need a safe place to be themselves. Our focus on outdoor
education and environmental responsibility is not something
they’re getting anywhere else. Reconnecting with nature gives
girls a place to decompress and be themselves.

Can you tell me some of the ways the Girl Scouts have made a difference in the Washington community?

Girl Scouts in their junior or senior years of high
school have the opportunity to try for a Gold Award, the highest award
a scout can receive. The girls have to create a project that
solves a problem or meets a need in the community, and they have
to dedicate more than 80 hours to implementation.

About five girls in 2012 earned their Gold Award
working on STEM [science, technology, engineering, and math]-related
and were welcomed at the White House in April. Another girl won
a the award for a project that created a scholarship program
for kids whose parents are incarcerated. It’s called
ScholarCHIPS, and it gives $10,000 to three high school seniors each

How about some famous Washingtonians who were Girl Scouts?

In DC there are a number of powerful women who are true Girl Scouts, from
Barbara Krumsiek, who runs Calvert Investments, to senator Barbara Mikulski, who still carries the Girl Scout promise in her purse. Secretary of Homeland Security
Janet Napolitano will break out into Girl Scout songs if you ask her.

The Girl Scouts of the Nations Capital’s Rock the Mall, the “world’s largest sing-along,” happens June 9 from 9 AM to 4 PM
on the Mall. For more information, visit the website.