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American Heritage Girls is one woman's gift to America

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In 1995, Cincinnati resident Patti Garibay decided to take matters into her hands regarding a situation she had now developed strong misgivings about. While involved as a Girl Scout troop leader, she became alarmed about the leftward leanings she saw the organization taking.

One of the things to disturb her most occurred in 1993 when the Girl Scouts eliminated the required use of the word “God” in the Girl Scout Promise. The organization now states: “The word ‘God’ can be interpreted in a number of ways, depending on one’s spiritual beliefs. When reciting the Girl Scout Promise, it is okay to replace the word ‘God’ with whatever word your spiritual beliefs dictate.”

Her disappointment in the Girl Scouts and desire to see a Christian-based organization be available for girls was transformed into a new organization, American Heritage Girls. Garibay states, “We believe that it is important to have a moral foundation when you are doing character building with kids, and that is where we are concerned that the Girl Scouts have fallen away to moral relativism. There is no foundational belief that says it is right or wrong.”

American Heritage Girls (AHG) is described as “a Christ-centered character development program, open to girls of all faiths and backgrounds, dedicated to the mission of building women of integrity through service to God, family, community and country.

Since it was founded in 1996, AHG has grown from small beginnings with 10 troops and 100 members to more than 20,000 members across four countries and 47 states in the U.S. Girls range in age from kindergarten through seniors in high school. Every year since its inception, AHG’s membership numbers have grown by 30-50%. With emphasis on Christian values and family involvement, members are kept busy with badge programs, outdoor experiences, service projects and leadership opportunities.

Troops in the American Heritage Girls organization are sponsored by various civic organizations and churches from numerous denominations. In 2011, Catholic churches were responsible for sponsoring more troops than any other denomination, with the largest number of members in these troops come from the home school community.

On September 15, 2012, AHG members participated in their first National Day of Service. Each troop selects the project(s) it will work on to fulfill AHG’s specific mission to serve God, family, community and country. Some of the more popular projects include collecting and distributing food to those in need, assisting in pregnancy care centers and collecting/assembling toiletries for those who are homeless. Though one day is set aside to emphasis the need to give back to the community, troops are busy throughout the year.

During 2011, AHG members donated more than 230,000 hours of service throughout the communities in which they live. Two examples of projects undertaken by the girls took place in Rio Rancho, New Mexico and Colorado Springs, Colorado. The 30 member troop in Colorado made pillow case bed bags for residents at Springs Village Nursing Home. In Rio Rancho, 70 girls participated with their families in making pocket dolls for orphans in South Korea. These dolls were then delivered to the orphans by volunteers from the U.S. Air Force.

Service participation by members is incorporated into the program to help girls develop integrity, leadership skills and character. It also allows the girls to discover their God-given purpose through the real experiences gained from helping others. “We have an emphasis on service, but also on importance of a spiritual belief, of religion in your life, or the importance of family, and the importance of honoring and serving your country,” said Garibay.

The highest ranking honor in the American Heritage Girls program is the “Stars and Stripes Award.” To earn the award, a girl must plan, implement and supervise a 100+ hour project which addresses a need in the girl’s community. This award is equal to the prestigious Eagle Scout Award with the Boy Scouts of America.

Recently, the Boy Scouts of America presented the American Heritage Girls with a Memorandum of Mutual Support. The presentation is the first time the 100-year old organization has ever recognized an all-girls organization.

For those interested in learning more about American Heritage Girls, contact Jody Token at 513-771-2025 to schedule an interview with Patty Garibay. Emails can be sent to news@ahgonline.org. To find a local project in your area, check out www.ahgonline.org/uploads/ahg2012ndslocations.pdf.

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