As the coronavirus pandemic alters operations for various businesses and nonprofits across the Houston area, members of the local Girl Scout council are adjusting activities to deal with millions in lost revenue from missed cookie sales.

Connie Chavez, the chief external affairs officer for Girl Scouts of San Jacinto Council and a local troop leader, said 6,000 cookie booths were canceled when the cookie program was suspended in mid-March. This resulted in a revenue loss of $3 million.

“COVID-19 just really struck at a vulnerable time,” Chavez said.

Girl Scouts sell cookies to help fund their camp activities and resources for the entire year, including program fees, maintaining camp properties and the financial aid program, Chavez said. The San Jacinto Council, with more than 50,000 members and 18,000 volunteers, is the second largest in the country, Chavez said; it covers 26 counties in southeast Texas, including Brazoria, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, Liberty, Montgomery and Waller.

The council has tried to make up for the absence of physical booths by extending the online portion of cookie sales, Chavez said, and by expanding the existing Cookies4Heroes program, which allows buyers to donate boxes to “local heroes” such as essential workers. Amid the uncertainty of the pandemic, the council keeps returning to one key phrase, she said: “School is canceled, gathering is canceled, but Girl Scouting is not canceled.”

Local Girl Scouts have been sewing and donating masks, as well as sending cookie boxes with thank-you's and notes of encouragement to first responders, Chavez said. Troop meetings are happening virtually, and girls can engage in various Girl Scouting activities online.

Girls interested in becoming Girl Scouts can complete the at-home activities as well, as they are available to the public. Chavez encouraged interested volunteers to complete training during their down time to be ready to serve in the fall.

Any changes to upcoming camps will be made based on public health guidance, and programming will be continually assessed and developed to ensure it can meet girls where they are at, Chavez said. The council anticipates a higher need for financial aid after the pandemic subsides as girls take interest in the program, she added.

“Historically after disasters, families really gravitate to programs like [Girl Scouts] because they’re accessible; they’re proven,” she said. “Girl Scouting is synonymous with helping and making the world a better place.”