WERNERSVILLE, PA — On Feb. 25, 98-year-old Veronica “Ronnie” Backenstoe will put on her smart green Girl Scout beret and uniform, and peddle the service organization’s famous cookies around her Wernersville, Pennsylvania, retirement home — still doing her part in a tradition that’s only a few years older than she is to help young girls grow into strong women.
The first time this Backenstoe — a treasure of a woman, by all accounts — sold the cookies was as a 10-year-old in 1932.
A box went for a dime and a nickel. There were no Caramel deLites, Do-si-dos or Girl Scout S’Mores back then — just chocolate mint, sandwich and shortbread cookies. Now there are a dozen varieties, including gluten-free options, and they sell for around $5 or $6, depending on the variety and local troop pricing.
The Girl Scouts began selling cookies in 1917, about five years before Backenstoe was born. Net profits stay with local Girl Scout troops and help the programs that Backenstoe credits for making her the woman she is today.
The almost-centenarian sells Girl Scout cookies with Troop 1814, and she is as enthusiastic about Scouting today as when she was a young girl and pestered her mother with questions about when she could join the Girl Scouts.
“My mom said, ‘When you’re 10,’ so when I was 10, I was ready to go,” Backenstoe told news station WFMZ.
A lifetime member of the Girl Scouts, Backenstoe went on to become a scoutmaster, an opportunity that took her to such places as Jamaica and Switzerland.
She never left the Girl Scouts, and the Girl Scouts never left her.
When Backenstoe’s husband left to fight in World War II, she slipped a Girl Scout ring on the chain that held his dog tags.
“She told him, ‘If you don’t take this ring off, then you’ll come back safe,” Donna Schudel, a spokeswoman for Phoebe Ministries, the retirement center where Backenstoe lives, told CNN.
The Girl Scout promises are a way of life for Backenstoe.
“I think that it was just part of living, and that’s what Girl Scouting is,” she told the news station. “It teaches you how to live.”
Barbara Allen Perelli, the Troop 1814 leader, told WFMZ that Backenstoe is a force.
“Her stamina, her energy, her mind,” Perelli said, “she’s nonstop.”
Backenstoe has “souped up” the golf cart she uses to get around her retirement community, where she’s everyone’s darling, Schudel told CNN.
“Everyone who meets her just falls in love with her,” Schudel said. “She’ll be 99 this year, and she’s totally looking towards 100.”
How To Get Your Own Cookies
About 1 million Scouts sell 200 million Girl Scout cookies — more popular than Oreos, Chips Ahoy and Milano — every year, according to Fortune. Find Girl Scout cookies in your area.
Of the 12 varieties available, the Lemon-Ups cookies are the newest, but they’re available only in select markets. The full 2020 Girl Scout cookie list includes:
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