The Story of American Heritage Girls
Once upon a time there was a mother who loved her four children very much. She lived in Ohio with her husband, three daughters, and one son. She was a committed volunteer with the Girl Scouts, because she believed strongly that scouting programs build character. She wanted her daughters to experience outdoor activities such as camping, and develop leadership, character, and social skills in the safe environment of an all-girl program. She was also a committed Christian who strived to help the girls in her troop know the Lord. She saw her leadership and volunteerism as her ministry, a way to be a light to young women who might not otherwise have a way to hear the gospel. She was educated as a teacher, so she had a special place in her heart for youth and "training them up in the way they should go" (Proverbs 22:6).
Around the year 1995, she became uneasy with the way her troop was asked to handle matters of faith. Patti, for that was her name, had always loved the part of the promise about serving God. This part of the promise was made optional, with an asterisk added next to “God” and members free to substitute in any word they liked instead. She started to hear troubling reports of camps that taught sexual ethics against what she read in the Bible. Hoping to reform the problems from the inside out, Patti did her best to raise awareness and find satisfactory answers, even forming a committee to this end with other concerned moms, but her repeated efforts to raise her concerns and be heard were met with silence and sometimes even disdain from the leaders above her. Eventually, she sadly realized that things were not going to change, at least, not in a direction she wished to follow with her girls.
Watching television one night with her husband, he asked her the fateful question, “Well, what are you going to do about it?” Instead of accepting defeat, after much prayer, Patti Garibay decided to start a Christ-centered group for her daughters and her friends. She gathered other parents around her kitchen table, including her best friend Laurie Cullen, and together they dreamed and brainstormed about what they really wanted for their daughters, and what kind of program would best guide their precious girls to grow up into women of integrity who loved God. The result was the first-ever AHG Troop, composed entirely of 4th and 5th graders.
Though Patti hadn’t intended to replicate the group, before long, others heard about it and wanted to know how they could start their own. Handbooks, Badge requirements, and trainings soon followed. Girls sewed their own uniforms as part of AHG’s first Badge, the sewing Badge, which they had to write themselves, of course.
Troops popped up all over the country as the news of a Christ-centered, faith-based, scouting-type program spread. AHG leadership went from a handful of parents around a table volunteering their time and rotating the phone bill monthly to make ends meet to a large office space with 50+ paid staff. Small seeds of hope grew into mighty oaks of tradition. AHG experienced an especially big membership increase in 2010 when they became the first all-girl program to partner with the Boy Scouts of America, a partnership that later ended when BSA changed their membership standards. Parents clamored for a BSA alternative, and AHG used their resources to help connect and mobilize these parents to form a faith-based scouting-type program for boys known as Trail Life USA.
They made some mistakes along the way (did you know it’s illegal to put any image in front of the American flag in a logo or picture?) but continued to grow with the help and support of a nationwide network of parents who share their goal of building women of integrity out of the little girls of today. By the grace of God, tens of thousands have been reached and served by the AHG ministry. Today, as AHG gratefully celebrates over 20 years of God’s blessings, the need for Christ-centered programs is stronger than ever. Learn about ways to support, pray for, or join AHG here .
AHG Founder Patti Garibay with a Tenderheart-Level American Heritage Girl