Published June 18, 2014
Macomb Girl Scout donates 2,900 boxes of cookies to soldiers
By Jeremy Selweski jSelweski@candgnews.com
MACOMB TOWNSHIP — To say that Elizabeth Popovich’s charitable efforts have grown by leaps and bounds would be an understatement.
Ever since the 11-year-old Macomb Township resident came up with a plan to donate most of her Girl Scout cookie sales to U.S. soldiers stationed overseas, her numbers have skyrocketed. In 2012, she sold nearly 700 boxes of cookies; in 2013, that number jumped to more than 2,300 boxes; and this year, she continued to outdo herself with almost 2,900 boxes donated.
“I just had the idea that we need to do something to support the troops and show them that we care,” said Elizabeth, who just completed her fifth-grade year at Sequoyah Elementary School. “I’ve met some veterans by doing this, and it’s very emotional because you know that you’re doing a nice thing and you can see how much they appreciate it.”
The Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan (GSSEM) recently announced that Elizabeth was the region’s top cookie seller for the 2014 season, which ran from Feb. 7 to March 30. As a member of Troop No. 30318 in Macomb Township, she sold more boxes of cookies — 3,904 altogether — than any of the more-than 20,000 local Girl Scouts who participated in this year’s cookie sale.
At a recent awards ceremony, Denise Dalrymple, CEO of the GSSEM, presented Elizabeth with a plaque in honor of her achievement, as well as a thank-you letter from Gov. Rick Snyder. According to Dalrymple, the Girl Scout cookie program does more than just raise funds for the organization and various charities. It also teaches girls five important life skills: goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills and business ethics.
“Elizabeth certainly showed us that she’s learned all of these lessons,” Dalrymple said, “and I think the letter that she received from the governor was well-deserved.”
But perhaps Elizabeth’s biggest fan is her father, Dave Popovich, who also serves as her personal chauffeur during cookie season. The proud dad often spends his evenings and weekends driving his daughter around to every business in the area. He said that Elizabeth will sometimes spend four or five straight hours seeking donations for America’s servicemen and -women.
Elizabeth quickly learned that while many business owners and customers would decline to purchase Girl Scout cookies for themselves, very few would pass up the opportunity to donate to the GSSEM’s Troops to Troops program, which works with the nonprofit group Operation Troop Aid to provide care packages for soldiers stationed all over the world. Once her plan began to catch on, Dave Popovich said that the level of support she received from the community was “remarkable.”
“It didn’t fully hit home for me until military veterans started coming up to me asking to shake my hand,” he explained. “They wanted to thank me for raising a daughter who was so willing to give back to others in such a big way. But this was all her idea, and she just really loves doing it. As a parent, how do you say no to your child when she wants to do something like this?”
The strongest response often comes from active and former soldiers. At one point this season, two Marines each donated $50 on the spot when they met Elizabeth outside a Kroger grocery store. Meanwhile, several local businesses — especially those run by military veterans — did not hesitate to contribute a few hundred dollars worth of cookies.
Wolverine Harley Davidson in Clinton Township was one of a handful of businesses that let Elizabeth set up a table to sell cookies to customers. Frank Blowers, public relations manager for the company, is a U.S. Army veteran who spent time serving in Vietnam and South Korea, so he personally understands the value of receiving an unexpected box in the mail.
“Boy, when those packages would come in, it was such an amazing gift,” Blowers said. “You can’t even fathom how much it means when you’re away from home for months and months at a time, and someone reaches out to you like that. So we just have all the respect in the world for what Elizabeth is doing, and we’re going to continue to help her out in any way we can. She’s a very warm young lady who wants to do good things and has already accomplished a lot.”
When Dave Popovich saw that his daughter’s efforts had brought in about $11,500 for Troops to Troops in just two months’ time, he was floored. But beyond the “staggering number” of cookie boxes sold, he knows that Elizabeth is establishing herself within the local business community.
“When we started hitting businesses, that’s when this really took off like wildfire,” he said. “They see how hard of a worker she is, and they already want to hire her for a job. Whether she knows it or not, she’s learning valuable lessons right now that will help her throughout the rest of her life.”
Elizabeth is already talking about selling 4,000 cookie boxes during next year’s program. As she described it, she is always pushing forward, always striving to do more, always hoping to raise more money and help more people.
“This is just a really good cause,” Elizabeth said. “It really makes me feel happy inside to know that I’m doing something to help the soldiers feel better. It’s a great feeling to see that all your hard work has paid off and it was all worth it.”