Staff Photo: John Bohn Girl Scouts Sophie Hart, 7, left, of Troop 2666 in Grayson and McKayla Taliaferro, 7, right, of Troop 1187 in Lilburn/Stone Mountain join other Girl Scouts from across the Atlanta region, at a gathering in Lawrenceville on Thursday to send off more than 115,000 boxes of donated Girl Scout cookies to U.S. military troops serving overseas. Berger Allied Moving of Lawrenceville donated a truck to transport the cookies.
LAWRENCEVILLE -- During an overcast Thursday afternoon, a handful of local Girl Scout troops and leaders ventured to the back parking lot of the Berger Allied Moving building in Lawrenceville.
They weren't there to earn any badges or help collect litter -- they came to say "thank you" to military personnel with more than 115,000 boxes of cookies, which are being shipped overseas for the Smiles4Soldiers program. People in the metro Atlanta area bought the boxes as a donation to the troops.
Four Army National Guard members were present for the donation, including Col. Vernon Atkinson, who was moved by the gesture.
"It's good for the troops that they know that there are people back at home thinking about them -- and everyone likes Girl Scout cookies," he said. "Whenever you stop off at different places, you stop by the USO (United Service Organization) and these cookies are always there, which makes us think of home. It makes everybody feel better."
The cookies are traveling to Belleview, Fla., via one of Berger's moving trucks, donated to help the Girl Scouts get their cookies to Operation Shoebox, which will then get the boxes to troops throughout the Middle East.
"Every year we have Girl Scout troops who want to donate cookies to the military, but don't have the resources to get them shipped or have a military connection," said Melissa Brandon, product sales manager for Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta "As a council, we were able to put that together to allow more troops to participate and give back."
Once the troops found out, they began pushing the cause.
"The girls collected cookies to donate," said Kelly Williams, a leader of Troop 1131 in Lawrenceville/Dacula. "At every sale, they were very vocal about supporting the troops which made us triple our number of boxes. I brought them to the event because I wanted them to see the cookies leave to go overseas. They are very excited."
During Thursday's event, the girls were thrilled to meet some people from the military, not just to give them sweet treats, but to tell them how they feel about the military's services.
"The cookie drive makes me feel proud and happy because I'm a Girl Scout and I know I'm giving to a good cause and not wasting any (cookies)," said Patty Vehraino, 10, of Troop 1187 in Stone Mountain/Lilburn. "Lots of girls in our troop have people in the military like their fathers -- sometimes brothers and mothers are in it. I've seen (military personnel) in random places, but I've never gotten to talk to them. I got to talk to them for the first time today and I told them that I was thankful for everything they do and all the Girl Scouts are proud of them, too."
With so much success, the Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta plans to repeat the cookie donations next year.
"The girls were very excited about the opportunity," Brandon said. "They really do want to help make a difference -- it is part of the Girl Scout mission is to make a difference. Today is a chance for them to see where the cookies go on the truck. It's a great opportunity for them to come out and really enjoy the moment of what their efforts have brought about."