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Follow those cookies! Girl Scouts turn to tech world to sell their treats in South Florida

The Girl Scouts are back to sell you their Thin Mints, Samoas and Dulce de Leche cookies at grocery stores, pharmacies and even tire stores at hundreds of locations around town. There’s now an app to find out where and when.

“After you download the app, put in the ZIP Code and it will ask if you are looking for sales going on today, the weekend or the next seven days,” said Eva Prada, who is known as the “Cookie Lady” for the Girl Scout Council of Tropical Florida, which serves Miami-Dade and Monroe counties. “The app will even take you to Google maps.”

Peggy Wingard, the volunteer leader of Troop 1414 in Kendall, said she knows it works. While selling cookies at a paint store, a student from the University of Miami arrived by taxi to buy a case of assorted boxes. “She said she found us using the app,” Wingard said.

A Girl Scout cookie sales locator also is available on the Internet at cookielocator And many older Girl Scouts are using social media, including Facebook, to market their own efforts for the 2013 cookie sale — which runs through Feb. 17 in South Florida.

“Technology definitely has helped today’s girls,” said Tara Tookes-Haslem, the Girl Scout unit leader for downtown Miami and the Overtown district. “We did it the old fashioned way, door-to-door.”

Thirteen-year-old Lauren Goldberg, an eighth-grader at Nautilus Middle School in Miami Beach, said she briefly tried that old-fashioned method. But she found door-to-door sales to be “so slow and just crazy,” especially because she has a goal to sell 1,500 boxes this year. In 2010 she sold 1,239 boxes, and last year she reached 1,028.

So now Lauren gets the word out about her presale and sales efforts on her Facebook page, in which she includes all the mouth-watering flavors. “People comment or message me: ‘Oh, my gosh, I want the Thin Mints and Samoas.’ ” She also makes sure she schedules plenty of booth time at a high-volume Publix grocery store.

Girl Scout cookie sales have come a long way since 1917, when the Mistletoe Troop in Muskogee, Okla., sold the first sweet treats to raise funds. They baked their own sugar cookies.

Last year, the Girl Scouts — using two commercial bakeries — sold about $790 million worth of cookies in the United States.

“It’s the largest girl-led business in the country,” said Lisa Johnson, spokeswoman for the Girl Scouts of Southeast Florida, which serves Broward County, Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast.

Most of the troops include a service project. Southeast Florida has a goal of sending 37,500 boxes of cookies to military personnel who are serving overseas. “We’ve been told the most requested items by soldiers are Starbucks coffee, Girl Scout cookies and letters from home,” Johnson said.

Southeast Florida’s Girls Scouts sold nearly 1.5 million boxes last year. The smaller Tropical Florida council sold about 445,000 boxes — all at $4 per pop.

“Not bad for little girls,” Prada said. “These are our future CEOs. And one day, we will have a Girl Scout in the White House.”

While the annual cookie sale campaign is viewed by most of the public as simply a fundraiser, those affiliated with the Girl Scouts know it is much more.

“Our cookie program is how girls put skills into action,” Prada said. “Kids learn better when they are doing something hands on, instead of just learning in theory. It builds so much confidence.”

The girls start by setting goals on what they want to use the money for, including service projects and cool field trips to places like Savannah, Ga., the birthplace of the Girl Scouts 101 years ago.

They figure out how much the activity will cost, put together a budget, and determine how many boxes they will need to sell to reach their goals. They put together a sales strategy and learn how to handle money. The trial by fire also teaches them how to sell.

“When people buy three boxes, I tell them if they buy two more it’s an even $20,” Lauren Goldberg said. “Everyone usually says, ‘OK.’ ”

Kristine Goldberg said her daughter has been inspired by the competition within her troop of becoming a top seller. “I think she also likes the idea that if you sell 1,000 boxes, you can swim with the dolphins,” she said.

Tookes-Haslem, who also volunteers as leader of Troop 1093 in Miami, said her girls have set a goal to go to Nickelodeon Studios at Universal Studios in Orlando.

“We figured each mom and girl needs to sell 325 boxes to pay their own way,” Tookes-Haslem said. “The girls learn to work toward something. They see that if they put a little effort into it, they can achieve something they want.

“That’s especially important in today’s society,” she said. “So many kids think you just get the credit card from mom to pay for everything.”