“Once a Girl Scout, always a Girl Scout.” At 98 years old, this woman in Wernersville, Pennsylvania, continues to live by this ideology. Ronnie Backenstoe has been a member of the organization since 1932, and this energetic soul shows no signs of stopping anytime soon.
Ronnie was born in 1922, and it was when she turned 10 that her mother let her sign up to be a Girl Scout in Lake George, New York. It was 1932, the time when the 31st President of the United States, Herbert Hoover, was in office. Every year since then, Ronnie has been selling the famous Girl ScoutGirl Scout cookies.
Although loved by many, other people fail to see any good reason for buying the cookies.
“You know many people say, ‘Oh there’s not many [cookies] in the box for that much money.’ Well, that’s not the purpose. The purpose is to teach the girls a little salesmanship for one thing. They learn to balance their budgets. They learn to be courteous when they go to the doors and introduce themselves. It’s all that little detail,” Ronnie told Good Morning America. “That’s the purpose of Girl Scouting.”
Ronnie is still an existing member of a troop, and recently, her fellow scouts joined her at her retirement community to sell cookies. She donned her old uniform – an olive green number with a skirt and matching cap that she received decades ago.
The Phoebe Berks retirement home in Pennsylvania is where she set up shop, and younger scouts from the area assisted her with setting up the table and selling. Barbara Allen Perelli, the troop leader, describes Ronnie as someone with boundless energy. The younger scouts say that she always makes them laugh.
A Girl Scouting story that Ronnie loves to tell young girls is this: Back in 1932, there were only three kinds of cookies available, and customers only had to pay 15 cents for each box!
“The little girls who I tell that to today, they giggle and laugh because [selling cookies for 15 cents] sounds so impossible, but it was the Depression,” Ronnie explained. “Therefore, everything was cheaper, of course, and it’s hard for this generation to understand that, you know.”
As the prices went up, so did Ronnie’s rank in the organization. In a poem written when she had been a member of the group for 85 years, she revealed that she had been a director of Camp Mosey Wood in the Poconos. She also served as a field director in Berks, Lehigh, Montgomery, and Bucks counties. After 45 years of active scouting, Ronnie retired in 1976 and was awarded badges for her exceptional contribution and outstanding service.
Being a Girl Scout, Ronnie says, served as a guide for how she lived her long life.
“I was ready to be prepared, to obey orders, to be courteous, cheerful and clean in thought, word and deed,” she wrote in the poem. “The Girl Scouts had planted a seed.”
Ronnie especially liked mints back in the day, but now, her favorite kind is the peanut butter Do-si-do sandwich cookies. Because of this, her late husband, Warren, who passed away in 2010, gave her a special nickname: “Peanut Butter Kid.”
She is now in her 88th year as a Girl Scout, and Ronnie says that she plans to continue selling cookies for as long as she could.
“The more you do it, the more you like it!” she said.
Learn more about Ronnie by watching the video below.
Ronnie’s commitment to the organization is truly remarkable! Share this story if you were inspired by her unrelenting dedication to becoming the best Girl Scout she can be!