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Girl Scouts, sitting on 144,000 unsold cookie boxes, get federal relief in Alaska

Thousands of Girl Scout Cookies remain to be sold when the COIVD-19 restrictions are lifted. Thursday, April 23, 2020. (Bill Roth / ADN)

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Girl Scout Cookies were flying off the tables in Alaska before COVID-19 concerns shut down the economy last month, forcing the scouts to stop selling inside store lobbies.

“It was frenzied shopping, and people were hoarding cookies like they were toilet paper," said Leslie Ridle, head of the Girl Scouts of Alaska.

But fears about girls getting sick cut the six-week season in half. Now, the Anchorage-based group, one of two councils in the state, is sitting on about 144,000 unsold boxes, she said.

As a result, Samoas, S’mores and Tagalongs have filled up living rooms and garages across the council’s sprawling region in southern Alaska, Ridle said.

“I’m hearing from lots of families: ‘When am I getting these out of my living rooms?’” Ridle said.

The halted sales pinched the cash that pays for nearly everything the council does in Alaska. That includes camps and scholarships for 3,500 girls and wages for 20 full-time employees.

But as Ridle weighed where to cut, First National Bank Alaska notified the council that it got a federal Paycheck Protection Program loan, she said.

The loan officer was amazing, she said. He called at nights, on weekends, even Easter Sunday to gather information.

The money appeared in the council’s bank account on Monday.

“It’s our bridge to keep things going,” Ridle said.

Girls Scouts of Alaska CEO Leslie Ridle on Thursday, April 23, 2020. (Bill Roth / ADN)

Employees can now stay on board. Amid the shutdown and school closures, they’re providing online programs for Girl Scouts, like magic trick lessons and flamenco dancing.

As for the girls, they’re working on their badges, like the new COVID-19 badge that emphasizes good hygiene.

People still want the cookies, the “ultimate comfort food,” Ridle said.

Companies like ConocoPhillips, GCI and First National Bank Alaska have made big buys to help.

Online sales have provided some income, but those cookies are shipped to Alaska from the Lower 48.

The piles of boxes in parents’ living rooms remain.

“I’m confident that once the economy gets up and going, our girls can get back to selling," Ridle said.

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