For those driving along Route 19 in Upper St. Clair who notice some waving, child-sized confections, it’s not a hallucination.

“We do have some cookie costumes that the girls can wear to try to help bring people in from the road,” Katie Zimmerman said.

It’s that time of year, when the perennial treats offered by Girl Scouts become available. And youngsters from Upper St. Clair will be doing their best to attract sweet-toothed customers to a sales booth to be set up during the next several weekends at Westminster Presbyterian Church.

Zimmerman, cookie manager for the USC Girl Scout Service Unit, said many of the usual locations for sales are unavailable this year because of circumstances related to COVID-19. As such, unit leaders have scrambled to find alternative sites.

The folks at Westminster gladly agreed to offer their parking lot, and other venues include the lobby of the Upper St. Clair Post Office, Norman Center Shoppes and the Sunoco station at McMurray and Bethel Church roads.

The girls will be ready to sell on Saturdays and Sundays, and convenience is a prime consideration along as safety.

“Customers can drive up. They can place an order with one person, and then the other group will fill their order and give it to them in their car,” Zimmerman said, meaning no one has to leave his or her vehicle. “The girls will be wearing gloves and masks, and we do request that customers wear masks, as well.”

Girls Scouts across the nation were in the midst of cookie season when pandemic-related restrictions suddenly curtailed activities. As far as generating sales, the situation hasn’t changed much in the ensuing 11 months.

“You have to just put on that thinking cap a little bit and look at some different ways,” Zimmerman said.

For example, girls have hung small placards on the doors of residences, and they’re contacting prior customers by a time-honored method.

“We’re actually picking up the phone now and calling people to ask them,” Zimmerman said. “People are definitely still willing to buy. You just have to be a little more creative in your approach.”

Those who purchase cookies have the option of donating boxes to Operation: Sweet Appreciation, through which the treats are sent to members of the military at home and overseas.

Last year, Girl Scouts Western Pennsylvania distributed more than 57,000 Sweet Appreciation boxes.

Proceeds support Girl Scout programs in general, and the annual cookie sale is intended as a life lesson for youngsters in entrepreneurship, marketing, customer relations and other skills from which they can draw in their future endeavors.

Providing major support from a leadership standpoint are folks like Zimmerman, who manages the cookie project on behalf of more than 20 troops in her service unit. She also has three daughters – Kayla, Lily and Zoe – all of whom are Girl Scouts.

To order Girl Scout Cookies online, visit www.gswpa.org/en/cookies/find-cookies and plug in your ZIP code, to allow for the sales to benefit local youngsters.

Multimedia Reporter

Staff writer Harry Funk, a professional journalist for three-plus decades, has been on the staff of The Almanac since 2015. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and master of business administration, both from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

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