When a Girl Scout asks you to order cookies this year — the annual drive starts Friday — you might want to buy an extra box or two for an overseas soldier. Girl Scouts of Central Illinois, the region that covers Sangamon and 37 other counties, has teamed with State Farm Insurance in Bloomington to launch Operation Cookie Share.

When a Girl Scout asks you to order cookies this year — the annual drive starts Friday — you might want to buy an extra box or two for an overseas soldier.

Girl Scouts of Central Illinois, the region that covers Sangamon and 37 other counties, has teamed with State Farm Insurance in Bloomington to launch Operation Cookie Share.

“On the cookie order card, for the first time, customers can check whether they want to donate cookies,” said Erica Douglas, spokeswoman for Girl Scouts of Central Illinois.

When the cookies arrive here in March, the military-bound boxes paid for by civilians will be transported to State Farm in Bloomington, which will ship them overseas.

“In the past, our Girl Scout troops have been doing this type of thing informally. Some have family in the military. But now we’re doing it as a council,” said Douglas.

State Farm has an ongoing program called Adopt-A-Soldier, through which employees donate items such as food, toiletries, books and puzzles (plus letters and cards of support) to service members deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Girl Scout cookies donated by central Illinoisans will be added to the payload.

Eric Cook of Clinton is a communications officer with the Air National Guard based in Peoria. In 2008, he spent six months in the war zones of both Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The best part of the day for us was mail call. Although we had three meals a day provided, we had hardly any access to candy and sweets,” said Cook, 38, who works as a project manager at State Farm in Bloomington.

When a soldier received a box of cookies, it was a special treat, he said.

“Just to get something with sugar in it, a piece of America, was great. It went as quickly as the box was opened.”

Sharon McCauley, mother of an Army reservist, coordinates State Farm’s Adopt-A-Soldier program, which began in 2003.

“Over the past three years, we’ve had local Girl Scout troops donate cookies. But this is a much bigger effort.”

She has no idea how many boxes of cookies the 2010 drive will generate for her program.

“This is incredible. The girls will get to see and feel what it is to help the soldiers and the soldiers will get a taste of home. We’re encouraging troop leaders to include their addresses so the soldiers can communicate directly with them,” said McCauley.

Although the cookie drive features eight varieties of cookies, donors will not be able to choose the types sent to the military troops.

“Some of our cookies just can’t stand the heat,” said Douglas. The council will choose the kinds that hold up best in the hot climate of the Middle East.

Varieties are Thin Mints, Shortbread, Thanks-A-Lot, Peanut Butter Sandwich, Peanut Butter Patties, Lemonades, Caramel deLites and Daisy Go Rounds. It’s the same lineup as last year. Each box costs $3.50.

People who buy cookies at booth sales — where troops sell at the entrance of a retail store or other location — also will be able to designate cookies for the military through Operation Cookie Share.

Cook said troops overseas appreciate receiving anything that reminds them of the United States.

“Just knowing people back home support you by sending simple things you associate with home, like Girl Scout cookies, is really appreciated.”

Kathryn Rem can be reached at (217) 788-1520 or kathryn.rem@sj-r.com.

Recipes

Recipes are adapted from www.littlebrowniebakers.com.

Fried Coconut Shrimp

1 cup coconut flakes

2 cups seasoned bread crumbs

1 pinch cayenne pepper

5 Caramel deLites Girl Scout cookies, finely chopped

5 extra-large shrimp, peeled and deveined

2 cups flour

4 egg whites

Vegetable or peanut oil for frying

Additional coconut flakes

1 lime, for garnish

Toss coconut flakes with bread crumbs, cayenne pepper and chopped cookies. Dredge shrimp through flour, followed by egg whites and cookie mixture.

Fry shrimp in vegetable oil at 350 degrees until golden brown. Garnish with coconut flakes and lime wedges.

Serving suggestions: Serve warm. Arrange in a star pattern on a salad plate, or on a bamboo skewer with tropical fruits. Serve as an appetizer, in a salad, or as an entrée. If serving as an entrée, accompany with fried plantains and wild rice.

Makes 5 shrimp.

Cheesecake Cup

1 box Shortbread Girl Scout cookies

12 ounces cream cheese, softened

Instant cheesecake pudding mix (check the box for extra ingredients)

Strawberries

Chocolate syrup

Crush half box of cookies. Mix softened cream cheese and prepared cheesecake pudding until smooth. Layer crushed cookies and cheesecake pudding in a glass dessert cup and repeat layering of ingredients. Garnish with strawberries (or your favorite berries) and 2 whole shortbread cookies. Drizzle with chocolate syrup.

Makes 8 servings.

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 Girl Scout Cookie Drive Quick Facts

 When: Orders will be taken Jan. 15-31. Cookies arrive in early March.

Who: Girl Scouts of Central Illinois includes 22,000 girls (ages 5-17) and 6,000 adult volunteers.

Why: Proceeds from the cookie drive fund troop activities, special events and training for volunteers.

More information: www.girlscouts-gsci.org

To find a Girl Scout cookie seller: Call the Springfield regional service center at (217) 523-8159.