Published January 8, 2014
Cookies for a cause
By Jeremy Selweski jSelweski@candgnews.com
MACOMB TOWNSHIP — When it comes to helping out the men and women who protect this country, Makayla Golembiewski is not afraid to think big.
Last year, Makayla sent 1,689 boxes of Girl Scout cookies to U.S. soldiers stationed overseas, a number that was not only the most of any Girl Scout in Michigan, but more than any Girl Scout troop in the entire state. But the 10-year-old Macomb Township girl is not content to simply rest on her laurels: This year, she hopes to crush her previous record by selling at least 2,500 boxes of cookies on behalf of the troops.
“I keep increasing my goal every time, so this is where I ended up,” Makayla explained. “I’m pretty sure I can reach my goal again this year, if I work hard.”
Makayla will set off on her mission with help from her mother, Brenda Golembiewski, who also serves as leader of Girl Scout Troop No. 30318, where Makayla is a member. As she did a year ago, Brenda will play the role of Makayla’s chauffeur, driving her daughter to and from local businesses to solicit donations.
Topping last year’s mark by more than 800 boxes will be no easy task, though. In January, February and March of 2013, Makayla spent three or four days a week after school asking businesses to purchase multiple boxes of cookies — at least one case worth, which amounts to 12 boxes — for soldiers overseas. She also spent four whole days of her winter and spring breaks from school visiting businesses while the rest of her friends were off playing and having fun.
“As a parent, she makes me proud on so many levels,” Brenda said. “She has such a big heart, and she’s always thinking of how she can help other people.”
Makayla is also confident enough to take charge of collecting the donations herself. Last year, she made a poster board featuring photos of deployed American soldiers enjoying Girl Scout cookies, wrote a heartfelt poem about the importance of supporting our troops, printed hundreds of flyers, and brought all these materials with her as she knocked on the doors of more than 400 businesses. She then spoke to the business owners or managers face-to-face to ask for their help, and 105 of them agreed to take her up on the offer.
“She was a little bit shy at first,” Brenda recalled. “But after a while, she started telling me, ‘Mom, you can just wait by the door — I can handle this.’”
A year ago, Makayla made the rounds to businesses in Macomb Township, Shelby Township, Utica, Clinton Township, Sterling Heights and other communities in the immediate area. In order to reach her ambitious goal of 2,500 boxes, this year she is branching out to include establishments in Troy, Rochester and Chesterfield Township.
“I have a feeling like I can get all the same businesses from last year and, hopefully, some new ones, too,” she said. “I want to get a lot of them so I can help more soldiers.”
Makayla’s Girl Scout cookies will be distributed to servicemen and -women overseas through Operation Troop Aid, a Tennessee-based nonprofit organization that provides care packages for American soldiers all over the world. Mark Woods, founder and CEO of the group, pointed out that the Girl Scouts are Operation Troop Aid’s biggest product donor every year, contributing between $500,000 and $750,000 of cookies and other items annually.
As a military veteran with 21 years of service in the U.S. Navy, Woods also understands the value of receiving surprise gifts when you’re stationed thousands of miles from home.
“To get a package in the mail from someone you don’t even know is always great,” he said. “It picks your spirits up when you’re down and makes you feel better about what you’re doing with your life.”
Woods was impressed when he heard about Makayla’s cookie endeavor and all the time and effort that she has put into it.
“We definitely appreciate that kids like her are so patriotic and care so much about what we do,” he said. “I wish there were more kids like her out there.”
This year’s Girl Scout cookie season began on Dec. 23 and will run through March 16. In addition to doing her part to collect donations, Makayla would like to raise awareness for the cause by encouraging other Girl Scouts in the area to think beyond their own troop and focus on supporting the troops who put their lives on the line every day.
“The more girls who do this, the more cookies we can send to the soldiers,” she said. “I want people to think about all the sacrifices that our soldiers have made for them. They give so much to all of us, and I just want to give something back to them to say thank you.”