After years toiling in various local television newsrooms as a producer, writer, anchor, and reporter, Felicia Dionisio decided to put an end to a career spent covering important stories about waterskiing squirrels and the effects of exploding fireworks on a mannequin. She hasn't looked back and considers her tenure as a news editor at WND a life-changing experience. The truth has a way of doing that.More ↓Less ↑
Patti Garibay, executive director of American Heritage Girls
Campfire stories, square knots and merit badges have been a part of Patti Garibay’s life since she can remember. She donned her first uniform as a Brownie in a troop led by her mother, and her school years revolved around the Girl Scouts of the USA.
Garibay, executive director of American Heritage Girls and co-founder of the organization, told WND, “I loved it. I worked hard to earn my badges, and I especially enjoyed the outdoor camping activities.”
She spent nearly two decades in Girl Scouts – six years as a girl member and 13 years as a troop leader in Cincinnati, Ohio. Garibay was also a recruiter, camp coordinator and area delegate, winning awards for outstanding leader and volunteer in both councils in which she served.
In Garibay’s words, she “bled green.”
“I had three daughters, so I was very involved,” she said.
In 1993, Garibay learned of the organization’s plans to revise the Girl Scout Promise as part of efforts to recruit members who did not embrace a Judeo-Christian concept of God. Under the new policy, the word “God” was no longer mandatory.
While the Girl Scouts retained the official wording, the pledge would allow “spiritual flexibility,” or simply the promise to serve. Garibay, a Christian, challenged the new policy. She expressed her concerns through the chain of command, but said her pleas went unheeded, despite her status within the organization.
“Where is God in all this?” Garibay wondered. In her heart, she knew biblical values were integral to any group that emphasized character development.
That year, delegates to the national convention voted 1,560 to 375 to revise the pledge, which reads: “On my honor, I will try to serve God and my country, to help people at all times, and to live by the Girl Scout Law.”
Girl Scouts of the USA makes no attempt to define or interpret the word “God” in the Girl Scout Promise. It looks to individual members to establish for themselves the nature of their spiritual beliefs. When making the Girl Scout Promise, individuals may substitute wording appropriate to their own spiritual beliefs for the word “God.”
More policy changes to promote “diversity” followed revisions to the pledge. When mandatory training for scout leaders promoted the acceptance of homosexuality as normal, Garibay found herself faced with a dilemma of “biblical” proportions.
“It was like a Pandora’s Box being opened,” she said.
After much soul-searching, she quit the Girl Scouts, even though it was part of her personal ministry. She called a meeting with other parents, who recognized the need for a Christ-centered alternative for their daughters. They began searching for an acceptable surrogate to organizations they viewed as increasingly secular. Their search came up empty.
“Rather than curse the darkness, I was encouraged to light a candle and start something new,” Garibay explained.
“We started a little club to honor God,” Garibay said. “Before we knew it, people from California were calling us.”
What makes American Heritage Girls different?
“Faith, service, fun,” Garibay said. “Faith is our first name.”
AHG embraces faith as the cornerstone of a young woman’s life and scouts are encouraged to find their empowerment through Christ.
Miki, an AHG troop leader in Kentucky, said, “In a world where values, morals and character seem to defy Him more and more, AHG is an affordable program that will impact girls’ hearts and lives forever. If only we had this program, consider how our lives would and could have been different!”
AHG’s mission is to enrich the lives of girls through dedication to service, spiritual growth, servant leadership, goal setting, teamwork and purity. American Heritage Girls are encouraged to maintain their purity in thought, word and dress.
Ann, a former AHG scout who is serving in the U.S. Army, said, “Service is perhaps one of the most significant things I learned in AHG.
“My troop participated in many, many service projects. I really enjoyed serving others, which grew into my decision to serve the country. Christ also calls us to be servants.”
AHG troops can be chartered by a variety of organizations, churches, schools or nonprofits. The girls meet for fun, service projects and leadership-building activities. They can pursue more than 240 age-appropriate badges and outdoor activities. Individual troops conduct fundraising through Christ-centered vendors.
“Girls of all ages can be in one troop,” Garibay explained. “Older girls can teach the younger girls and it also teaches leadership and mentoring skills.”
“I recommend American Heritage Girls enthusiastically to parents who want their daughters involved in a traditional Christian-based program that will reinforce what they are trying to teach at home,” he wrote in his book, “Bringing Up Girls.”
In 2009, AHG scored a coup when it became the only all-girls organization to partner with the Boys Scouts of America. Affiliated programs for both boys and girls offer an appealing combination for families. On Feb. 5, AHG will join the Boy Scouts to celebrate Scout Sunday in churches across the nation. In August, the group will spend a week networking at Philmont Scout Ranch, the BSA’s national high-adventure base in New Mexico. AHG has also entered into other valuable partnerships with Veggie Tales, Secret Keeper Girls, iShine, Compassion International, Operation Christmas Child and Joni and Friends.
Faith, a 12-year-old AHG scout, said, “My brother is in Boy Scouts, soccer and karate. I felt left out – but now I have friends in AHG. Friends that love God and understand what is important to me.”
As Girl Scouts becomes more secularized, American Heritage Girls is growing.
“Over 90 percent of the people who come to us have left the Girl Scouts,” Garibay noted. “We’re like the best kept secret.”
In the 16 short years since its inception, AHG boasts 18,000 members and has expanded to 45 states and four countries. It has become the fastest-growing all-girl scouting organization. According to the group, membership spiked by 50 percent last year. While AHG is a Christian group, it includes girls from all faiths.
Courtesy: Cincinnati Business Journal
Today, it is considered the premier faith-based national character development and leadership group for young women.
“Not only was this the answer to my prayer for guidance to develop my daughter into a woman of integrity but also a call for me to become more personal with my walk with the Lord,” said Stephanie, a troop leader in Virginia. “Even though we attend church and Sunday school weekly, there was still a need to be more purposeful in our weekday life. My walk with God has been much closer these past two years then it has been my entire Christian life. I am a witness that God has mightily blessed the founders’ efforts and continues to call His children of all ages closer to His heart.”
Garibay delights in the many blessings bestowed upon the girl members and the many “kitchen table parents” who “start a legacy in their communities by leading an AHG troop.”
She said the impact on the adult leaders is powerful and sums it up this way:
“To see the fruits of this labor has been a real blessing. This has almost become a ladies ministry – another fruit we didn’t anticipate. But when God’s in it, you never know!”
The American Heritage Girl Oath: “I promise to love God, cherish my family, honor my country, and serve in my community.”
Creed: “As an American Heritage Girl, I will be: Compassionate, Helpful, Honest, Loyal, Persevering, Pure, Resourceful, Respectful, Responsible, Reverent.”
For more information about AHG or to learn how to start a troop in your area:
American Heritage Girls:
175 Tri County Pkwy Suite 100
Cincinnati, OH 45246