New Store Policy Takes Bite Out of Scouts’ Fundraising

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Courtesy Photo

THE NATOMAS BUZZ | @natomasbuzz

Natomas Scouting leaders are worried how they will fund their groups’ activities in light of a recent ban on all soliciting at Raley’s and Bel Air stores.

Effective April 1, on-site sales of Girl Scout Cookies and Trail’s End Popcorn by Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts is prohibited in front of all Raley’s, Bel Air and Nob Hill Markets.

“We have a long history of community support and philanthropy, which has included hosting various non-profit organizations so they could solicit outside of our stores,” Raley’s spokesman John Segale wrote in a statement from the company. “However, in recent years, more and more customers have complained of feeling pressured and harassed by solicitors as they entered and exited our stores.”

The company’s support for the community and local non-profits will continue, but it has adopted a no-solicitation policy at all its stores, Segale added.

Raley’s and Bel Air stores account for three of four major grocery stores in Natomas where Scouting troops traditionally fund raise. Scouting leaders said prohibiting Girl Scout Cookies and popcorn sales will not only restrict their troops’ activities and community service, but also limit the number of youth who receive scholarships and subsidies which enable them to participate in Scouting. (Girl Scouts also sell cookies in front of other stores, but those locations can vary from year to year.)

Courtesy Photo

Courtesy Photo

Girl Scouts are reportedly considering doing away with pre-order forms which account for only about one-third of all cookie sales, said April Harris, Del Garden service unit manager. The bulk of Girl Scout Cookies are sold at site sales like those in front of grocery and other stores in Natomas and throughout the region.

“Site sales are really what fuels our funding,” Harris said. “Taking Raley’s and the two Bel Airs out would be really devastating.”

Harris said the Del Garden service unit includes 45 troops, or 380 Girl Scouts, in Natomas alone. It is overseen by the Girl Scouts Heart of Central California council which serves more than 29,000 girls and nearly 11,000 volunteers in 18 counties including: Alpine, Amador, Calaveras, Colusa, El Dorado, Glenn, Mariposa, Merced, Nevada, Placer, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Solano, Stanislaus, Sutter, Tuolumne, Yolo, and Yuba.

With the soliciting ban at all Raley’s and Bel Air stores, troops will be forced to compete for all available locations, resulting in fewer sales and less money raised, she said.

For the past two years, Harris said, the council has had an agreement with Raley’s and Bel Air stores beyond the stores’ standard solicitation policy. She said council is trying to negotiate to be allowed to still sell Girl Scout Cookies at the stores, but has been told it does not look promising. And those who want to buy Girl Scout Cookies in Natomas, may have a harder time finding them as a result.

“It’s extremely discouraging,” Harris said.

Natomas resident and Girl Scout leader Wendy Mibach said she was disappointed to hear about Raley’s new policy. Her daughters have sold Girl Scout Cookies outside all three of the Natomas Raley’s and Bel Air locations for the past 11 years, and her son has sold popcorn at the same sites for seven years.

“I hate to see our partnership with these stores end,” Mibach said. “The girls love going there and seeing teachers, coaches, neighbors and friends.”

“It’s truly a community event and we have always gotten great feedback from customers saying they have been ‘looking for us’ or ‘waiting for us’,” she said.

“It’s truly a community event and we have always gotten great feedback from customers saying they have been ‘looking for us’ or ‘waiting for us’.”

In 2011, Cub Scout Pack No. 402 of Natomas sold $16,300 worth of popcorn at Bel Air and Raley’s locations. In 2012, the pack’s site sales were $12,400 with more than $10,000 sold in front of Raley’s and Bel Air stores in Natomas. A good portion – 70 percent of the sales – go to local Scouting, pack leaders said.

“While I am sure Raley’s has received some comments about some groups, I have never walked by Boy or Girl Scouts selling items outside their stores and felt in any way ‘pressured or harassed’ as Raley’s new policy indicates,” said Joe Julio, a leader of Natomas Cub and Boy Scout programs, as well as a member of the Golden Empire Council’s fundraising committee. “This policy change will have a detrimental impact on the fundraising efforts for every Boy and Girl Scout group in any neighborhood served by Raley’s.”

According to Matt Mlakar, popcorn sales coordinator for Pack 402, some Scouts work many shifts at the grocery stores to pay for membership dues, outings, and camps.

“Without that money, they would not be able to experience much of what Scouting has to offer,” Mlakar said.

Along with Pack 402,  Scouting in Natomas also includes Cub Scout Pack No. 447, Boy Scout Troop No. 447 and three packs overseen by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“I appreciate Raley’s ‘long history of community support and philanthropy,’ but no support can replace the opportunity that is available to Scouts selling items outside (Raley’s/Bel Air) stores,” Julio added. “This includes giving the Scout the opportunity to earn their own way for activities in the Scouting programs.”

“The net affect (of the soliciting ban) is that some youth in our community will be deprived of activities, or worse will be deprived of participating in the program all together.”

“The net affect (of the soliciting ban) is that some youth in our community will be deprived of activities, or worse will be deprived of participating in the program all together.”

Courtesy Photo

Courtesy Photo


  1. Tania E. Graetz-Pedersen says

    I intentionally shop where they allow us to have cookie booths for the Scouting troops.

  2. Laurie Payne Bratman says

    As a mother of two cub scouts in pack 402, I guess that means I will start doing my (3x a week) grocery shopping for a house full of growing boys, elsewhere.

  3. If the Raley’s/Bel Air solicitation ban means that there will also be no more petitions and candy bar sales at their doors, I am all for it. Every week, there is some organization vying for my money and I am tired of it.

    • disqus_3sITiG8JYG says


      I agree with you that random candy sellers and petitioners can be annoying, however, you fail to see the big picture. The Girl Scouts and the Boy Scouts always go through the proper channels, fill out the appropriate paperwork and have a very structured way of setting up their site-sales. The scouts are all trained on appropriate behavior and when/how to sell their products, a policy we all take very seriously. Frankly, I find your statement of “some organization vying for (my) money” to be obtuse and borderline offensive. Look a seven year old Girl Scout in the eye and tell me she is “vying” for your money? She’s more than likely raising money to help her troop perform service and community related activities. If you’re “sick of” being solicited perhaps you should volunteer your time instead and not penalize all of the Scouts in Natomas for your ten seconds of uncomfort walking out of a store.

    • Elizabeth says

      My understanding is that the stores cannot stop petitioners, who are the ones making people feel harassed, in my opinion.

  4. Sally Alden says

    It’s sad that people in our community complain about children selling cookies and popcorn. I would hope people would realize scouting is really good for kids, and the sale of cookies and popcorn are needed to support their troops. Raley’s and Bel Air have long been supporters of our local community and I thank them for that. Maybe Raley’s and Bel Air will be willing to sell scout cookies and popcorn items in their stores, provide a high visibility endcap for scouting products and give 100% of the proceeds to the scouts. That way they could still support the local troops and not “bother” the people who lump scout sales with other solicitors.

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