Girl Scouts are gone from stores during the spread of COVID-19, but their cookies are now on Harmons Grocery stores’ shelves.

© Rick Egan
(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Girl Scouts Relena, 16, left, Ruth, 17, back, and Lillia, 8, right, at Harmons Grocery store in Salt Lake City Friday, May 8, 2020. Harmons is now selling Girl Scouts cookies in its stores to help the organization during COVID-19.

Each spring, Girl Scouts set up at area stores to sell the treats. This year, they also kept hand sanitizer and gloves at their tables to “make sure everybody was being safe” during the coronavirus pandemic, said Ruth, a 17-year-old Girl Scout from Tooele.

But by mid-March, Girl Scouts of Utah decided to stop the in-person sales to protect the health of the girls, families and volunteers involved, said Callie Birdsall-Chambers, vice president of marketing and communications.

“When we had to cancel the cookie booths on March 14, we still had two full weekends and a full week of cookie booths left to go, which is a big portion of the Girl Scouts sales,” Birdsall-Chambers said. Cookie sales make up 60% of the organization’s program funding.

It was left with more than 100,000 unsold boxes. Troops decided to donate some of the cookies to first responders, health care providers and other frontline workers. About 55,000 boxes were sold online. And now, Harmons is stepping in to help with the rest.

On Friday, Harmons started selling the cookies at 19 stores across the state. “They’re selling them at the same cost the girls would sell them for … so all of the profits go to the Girl Scouts,” Birdsall-Chambers said.

“It’s kind of like if girls were in the stores selling cookies. They’re just not physically going to be there,” she said.

Ending cookie sales is just one of the changes that Girl Scouts of Utah has had to make during the global health crisis. In-person meetings for troops and service units are canceled until June 30.

Relena, of Murray, said she now meets with her troop virtually on Zoom. (It is a policy of the Girl Scouts of Utah to provide only the first names of girls.)

“It’s kind of nice just to talk with each other. We’ve all been kind of a little bit isolated, so it’s great just to be in contact with each other, just seeing each other, laughing, talking,” the 16-year-old said.

Lillia, 8, of West Jordan, said making new friends is one of her favorite parts of Girl Scouts. The organization holds an annual summer camp program, which Ruth said is “really fun … because we get to meet younger Girl Scouts and get to talk to them.”

“I’m an ambassador Girl Scout, so this is my last year. … It’s a little sad,” Ruth said.

On Friday morning, Ruth, Relena and Lillia gathered at Harmons’ City Creek location wearing their Girl Scouts vests and face masks for the announcement about the new way cookies would be sold. They posed for pictures in front of a cookie display at the end of an aisle near the checkout lanes.

“We didn’t want their season to be cut short because of everything that’s going on if there was something we could do to help them meet their goals,” Lindee Nance, Harmons’ vice president of marketing and advertising, said.

© Rick Egan
(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Callie Birdsall-Chambers snaps a photo of Girl Scouts, Relena, left, Lillia, center, and Ruth, right at Harmons Grocery store in Salt Lake City Friday, May 8, 2020. Harmons is now selling Girl Scout cookies in its stores to help the organization during the coronavirus pandemic.

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