February 15, 2012 // Local

St. Vincent American Heritage Girl Scouts pledge faithfulness to God, deep respect of others’ beliefs

Grace Simcox salutes the flag during closing ceremonies at the first meeting of the St. Vincent American Heritage Girl troop.

FORT WAYNE — A group of young parents from West Chester, Ohio, were seeking a wholesome, Christ-centered program for their daughters in 1995. Frustrated with the increasing secular focuses of other options available, they formed the American Heritage Girl (AHG), which began its first year of programming with about 100 members and 10 troops. Most of the troops met in the West Chester area and worked on badges written by the parents who developed the organization.

AHG is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the mission of building women of integrity through service to God, family, community and country. The organization offers badge programs, service projects, female leadership opportunities and outdoor experiences.

This program of character building has successfully served thousands of girls since its inception and in 2012 was launched in the Fort Wayne area at St. Vincent de Paul Parish.

The Christian Scouts troop was formed by Pam Leach, Kathy Moran and Melissa Martin. Moran explains, “We worked for a year to educate Msgr. John (Kuzmich, pastor) on the benefits of AHG. Once he gave us his blessing, we simply asked for volunteers who felt called to bring this ministry to St. Vincent.”

A team of 14 stepped forward last fall and a troop meeting was held on Jan. 17, with enough leaders to cover all five levels and 61 girls the first outing. The girls were taught the AHG oath, mission and salute as they participated in their first flag ceremony. They also enjoyed getting acquainted, making crafts, working towards their “Joining Award” and a short skit and a guest speaker — a retired veteran showing them the proper care and respect for the American flag.

The vision for AHG is to be the premier national character development organization for young women that embraces Christian values and encourages family involvement. As part of AHG, each member promises to be compassionate by understanding others in fellowship, empathy, kindness and caring. They strive to be helpful and willing to serve others.

In addition, they pledge to be honest, loyal and perseverant, while remaining pure in mind and body. The troop must be resourceful using their time, materials and talent wisely, respectful to their country and all in authority and responsible for their actions. Finally, AHG demands reverence from their members — faithfulness to God and a deep respect of others’ beliefs.

Core concepts emphasized through the ministry include life skill enhancement, female leadership, teamwork development, building confidence and character, and social and spiritual development. The group accepts girls from kindergarten through grade 12 and divides them by age into the five different level divisions of AHG.

The first group for the youngest members is called “pathfinder.” At this level, girls can earn necklace beads for attendance, participation and Bible verse memorization. As a “tenderheart,” members earn achievement badges, service stars and activity patches for completing various responsibilities. “Explorers and pioneers” have increased expectations while the “patriot” level expects the highest skill level in all areas. “Patriot” members work closely with the unit leaders helping to plan and carry out activities, allowing them to make decisions on a regular basis.

The St. Vincent chapter will hold individual grade level squad meetings at various times over the next month, while the multi-grade troop meetings will be held the third Tuesday of each month. Their plans for the remainder of 2012 include earning badges, service work and fun.

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