Emily Graves, 17, of La Porte, Indiana, a senior at New Prairie High School, founded a nonprofit organization that has delivered more than 35,000 boxes of Girl Scout cookies to active and former military personnel at home and abroad over the past decade. When Emily was 6, her mother challenged her to think about how she could use the Girl Scout cookies she was selling to help others. Emily bought several boxes with her own money, solicited donations to buy 600 more, and contacted veterans’ organizations to help her ship them to service members. “Active military members are separated from their homes and families,” she explained. “I wanted to give them a piece of home, something comforting in the midst of uncertainty.”
Now, every year during Girl Scout cookie season, Emily writes letters to companies and organizations to solicit donations, and contacts local Girl Scout troops to enlist their assistance. With help from more than 150 volunteers, Emily purchases over 5,000 boxes of cookies and packs them up at an annual packing event. She ships cookies both to active soldiers and to veterans, and personally hands them out at veterans hospitals, Honor Flights, and at other military and veterans events. In addition to making service members feel appreciated, Emily’s “Cookies for Soldiers” organization is teaching younger students about the heroism and sacrifice of those who serve their country. “Military members and veterans who receive a box or shipment are told that there are people who care for them, see them and appreciate them,” Emily said.