Leaders Becky Moore and Niki McElravy pose with scouts Lilly Kamenicky, Sophie Blazor, Ellie Moore, Kira Richter, Iris Hickman, Amilia Iracheta, and Lilika and Irelyn Hawkins outside Mal's Diner. (The Enterprise/Liliana Frankel).

VALE - When the Covid pandemic began to shut things down in Vale, Girl Scout Troop 339 was on its second-to-last weekend of cookie sales. 

Following the shutdown, “we were stuck with hundreds of boxes of cookies,” said Niki McElravy, the troop leader. 

The girls weren’t able to resume their sales until the summer, when things began to reopen, and even then it was with face masks on and sanitizer in hand. 

But despite the money they raised for their troop, Covid restrictions meant the girls couldn’t hold their usual Thursday in-person meetings or do their usual activities. And there wasn’t a leader ready and willing to take on the challenge of moving the Scouts into a virtual format. 

“I love the hugs, I love the smiles, I love the laughter, I love when they’re holding hands and running around the building and they’re having a great time,” said McElravy. “I’m not a Zoom person.”

So after several months of searching for a new leader, McElravy and co-leader Becky Moore made the difficult decision to close the troop. Faced with the need to liquidate their cookie money, the girls, who are mostly between the kindergarten and 7th grades, went out with a bang.

“We were going to go on Amazon or whatever and buy a whole bunch of whatever the girls individually wanted,” said McElravy. “And then we started thinking about putting it back into the community.”

In the end, the troop leaders decided to invest $85 for each of their 12 members in gift certificates to local businesses in Vale, including Mal’s Diner, Abbie’s Hair Creations, Perks, Luzetta’s, and Malheur Drug. The idea was to enable the girls to shop for Christmas presents for their families at local businesses, and the total amount invested was $1,020. 

“I hope all the girls were excited as my daughter, because she was running around the house like, ‘Oh my God, this is so cool! This is amazing!’” said McElravy. 

“CONGRATULATIONS!” reads the note McElravy and Moore wrote to their girls. “Your impact to this community will ripple out for months and possibly years.”  

In addition to the money invested in gift cards to local businesses, the troop leaders also repeated a service that the girls had decided to do together last year, and donated a total of $300 to three needy families through The Family Place in Ontario. The remainder of the cookie money they had left over, about $25, went to the Vale Food Bank. 

Regarding the use of the money the Scouts raised, McElravy said the most important guiding principle was that their decisions were “girl-led.” 

“We gave them options, we gave them ideas, we took votes and the majority ruled on the things that we did,” she said. “And then once they decided what it is they wanted to do as a troop and they were excited about it, I felt it was our job to make it happen.”

“The girls have always wanted to be a part of the community,” she continued. “We’ve picked up trash, we’ve washed windows, we’ve weeded flowerbeds. So coming up with the idea [to buy gift cards and donate to the Family Place and the Vale Food Bank] is twofold, because it pleases the girls to they know they’re being thought about - everyone wants to receive a gift, everybody wants to buy gifts for their family - and they want to help out in the community and keep businesses going.”

News tip? Contact reporter Liliana Frankel at [email protected] or 267-981-5577.

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