After months of yearning and withdrawal, the wait is finally over. Girls Scout cookies are back again.

More than 32,000 Girl Scouts of the River Valleys Council kicked off cookie sales across southern Minnesota and western Wisconsin on Saturday, all hoping to do their troops proud.

Among all of the girls hitting the pavement with their boxes and sales pitches, one Northfield Girl Scout is setting the bar exceptionally high.

“I want to sell 1,000 [boxes],” said Jonie Erickson, one of 13 members in Northfield Girl Scout troop 22667.

While last year the average local Girl Scout sold 159 boxes of cookies, Erickson handed out 732 boxes.

“She was one of the top sellers in our council and our council has sold the most cookies of any council in the country for the past two years,” said Sara Danzinger, the public relations manager for River Valleys.

Having been a part of the Girl Scouts program now for seven years, Erickson has honed her selling strategy.

“There aren’t many Girl Scouts around here, so I go door-to-door first,” said Erickson.

But with the often bitter cold and icy streets that are all too characteristic this time of year, making sales requires time, commitment and a good selling partner.

“When she was younger, we used to go around with a sled,” said Erickson’s mother Marla, a self-proclaimed “cookie mom.” “Sometimes I ended up pulling both Jonie and the cookies.”

Though the girls receive great support from parents and troop leaders, the responsibility of the sale is really on them.

“They make all of the decisions,” said Danzinger. “It really empowers them.”

With more than 70 percent of the money raised staying within the council to fund programming and service projects, the cookie sale also teaches the girls valuable life skills, such as goal setting, money management and business ethics.

Erickson, along with one other troop member, is currently working on a project that will help them achieve a silver award and graduate to the senior level of Girl Scouts.

“We went to the Humane Society and they said they needed help with community awareness,” said Erickson.

Erickson is combining her passion for animals and commitment to community to make posters and various other materials to help this local organization.

“It gives you awesome opportunities,” said Erickson of Girl Scouts. “And you get to be friends with people you wouldn’t normally hang out with.”

Erickson and her fellow troop members will be selling cookies individually and together at booths through February and into March, with the sale coming to a close on March 17.

Erin O’Neill is an intern for the Northfield News. She can be reached at 507-645-1106.

Erin O'Neill is an intern for the Northfield News. She can be reached at 507-645-1106.