Since 1917, the Girl Scouts of the USA have been in the business of selling cookies and after more than a century, they’ve pretty much figured out the perfect formula. For four months every year, girls from all over the country visit neighbors, sell to family and set up in front of grocery stores to provide Americans with some of their favorite cookies.
Between January and April, Girl Scouts sell approximately 200 million packages of cookies, worth nearly $800 million. That is a lot of freakin’ cookies. It’s not a frivolous thing and though it teaches valuable lessons about hard work and economics, it’s not easy. Every so often though, someone comes along to make their job a little easier…
In the Cold
This uplifting viral story begins, somewhat unexpectedly, on a cold winter’s night in Greenville, South Carolina. A troop of Girl Scouts had set up outside of a grocery store and were selling cookies well into the evening when a man stopped to peruse their wares before he went inside to finish his grocery shopping.
The man picked up seven boxes, gave the girls $40 for the lot, and told them to keep the change. It was a nice offer and one that the Girl Scouts definitely appreciated. After all, girls are rewarded for selling the cookies, either with trinkets, merit badges or by using the money they make towards Girl Scout retreats and the like. The man’s generosity didn’t end there though…
The Girl Scouts of the United States of America was founded in 1912 by one Juliette Gordon Low. She had met Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of Scouting, the year prior and decided that she wanted to create something to help young American women in the same way that the Boy Scouts had helped many young men over the years.
The goal of the Girl Scouts is to prepare and empower young girls. The organization promotes a number of important, positive qualities like compassion, courage, confidence, character, leadership, entrepreneurship, and active citizenship. It also helps girls to acquire practical skills they might need in life. Then, not five years after they started, the Girl Scouts started selling cookies to this effect…
Girl Scout Cookies are perhaps the biggest fundraiser for local Scout troops. It’s designed to be conducted by girls and led by the scouts themselves, though they are often helped out by adult troop leaders, volunteers, and parents. The program also happens to be the largest girl-run and girl-led financial literacy program in the world.
Donations and Profits
The girls themselves also get to decide how to spend any money they make, though most troops ultimately choose to donate it towards community projects or worthy causes. These decisions don’t generally get made until all the cookies are sold but luckily for this South Carolina Troop, that moment was about to come rather quickly…
Pack It Up
The nice man who had bought the cookies walked out of the store when he was finished, only to find the troop still doing their best to entice folks to buy their remaining cookies. It was a cold night, only 34 degrees and he didn’t like to see the little girls out there so late. He walked over to the troop leader and told her to pack it all up. He would take the lot.
The girls couldn’t believe it. Was this man being serious? He assured them he was and then paid $540 needed to pay for all the cookies. They asked him why he would do such a thing and more importantly, what he was going to do with more than $500 worth of cookies. The man smiled broadly as he answered…
The generous stranger explained that he owned several businesses and that he planned on taking the cookies to work with him. The girls helped him pack up his car and asked him to take a picture with them. The man agreed and was soon on his way. In all the excitement, they’d never even gotten his name.
Kindness from Strangers
Kayla Dillard, a Girl Scout mom, and the cookie manager of the troop took the photo of the man and put it up on Facebook. The story went viral and she was interviewed by CBS News. She told them “That man was just a very kind, sincere, and humble man who loves children.” As it turned out, he was a little more than that…
A Thousand Shares
Within a few days, Kayla’s Facebook post was shared thousands of times. Local and national outlets picked up the heartwarming story, forcing it to go even more viral across all social media platforms. The Girl Scouts were making headlines and so was the man who’d helped them; albeit for different reasons.
South Carolina TV station WSPA, in particular, actually managed to identify the man during the course of the investigation. The man’s name was Detric Lee McGowan, a 46-year-old man who was arrested the Tuesday after he bought the cookies by Drug Enforcement Administration…
According to federal court records, arrest McGowan and nine other people had been arrested for a number of felony drug and racketeering charges. He was accused of trafficking drugs such as heroin and fentanyl, smuggling more than $1 million in cash, and renting a building to manufacture and store drugs.
The DEA then seized his family home, along with, presumably, about a dozen boxes of uneaten Trefoils. Upon his arrest, McGowan pleaded not guilty to eight of those. He was brought into custody and was scheduled to be arraigned. People, including the girl’s he’d bought the cookies from, were understandably shocked by the news…
A number of ignorant people began to speculate that McGowan’s kindness towards the Girl Scouts had something to do with the arrest, which is of course ridiculous. Neither the Girl Scouts nor their post was responsible for the police catching up with McGowan. He’d been part of a long-term, multi-state, federal drug investigation that began in September 2018.
Janis Richardson, McGowan’s attorney, announced that he declined to comment on the criminal charges, but spoke out on her client’s behalf. Richardson, like many others, believe that McGowan’s gesture towards the Girl Scouts was simple proof that no matter what he’s accused of, he’s a good-hearted person. But do the Girl Scouts agree?
After the shocking turn of events, the Girl Scouts of South Carolina Mountains to Midlands were unsure what to do. The man who’d so generously bought all their cookies and let them get in from the cold might actually be a criminal; one who peddles drugs and deals in potentially stolen funds.
No One Hurt
The troop finally released a statement saying, “Nobody was hurt. Nobody was threatened. We had no reason to believe that this man was anything other than one of our valuable customers that are helping Girl Scouts power awesome experiences through the Girl Scout Cookie Program.” It was a respectable reaction, other folks on the Internet were much more humorous….
The original Facebook post about the altruistic shopper was taken down as soon as word of McGowan’s alleged misdeeds hit the Internet. Many folks responded to the news over Twitter and Facebook regarding the shocking revelation. “This is why we can’t have nice things.” and more clever responses like “Ahhhhh, makes sense. The Scouts were hogging his corner!”
As for the Girl Scouts, they have passed the matter into the capable hands of law enforcement and have vowed to cooperate with authorities however they can. They are determined to not let this little snafu get in the way of their selling cookies and there’s even a new flavor out this year, as you’ll see in the video below…
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