American Heritage Girls
About the Guest
Patti Garibay, national executive director of the faith-based organization, American Heritage Girls, talks about how the organization began and how today it is helping girls.
American Heritage Girls
Bob: There’s a relatively new and growing organization of girls and young women, all of whom, according to founder Patti Garibay, have a number of things in common.
Patti: Each girl five to eighteen raises their hand with four fingers and says, “I’ve promised to love God, cherish my family, honor my country, and serve in my community.” Our mission is to build women of integrity through service to God, family, community, and country. And the girls do take a creed as well that promises that they will be pure, and that they will be compassionate, and they will be reverent. So for us, it’s really important that families know what we stand for.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, June 29th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We’re going to learn more about the American Heritage girls today—about their mission / about what they’re hoping to accomplish in the lives of young women. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. So, I’m curious—can you remember the last time you slept all night in the out-of-doors on the ground somewhere?
Dennis: Outside of a tent? What are you talking about?!
Bob: We’ll take a tent. I’m just talking about no cot, no mattress, no nothing—on the ground, in a sleeping bag, out of doors—the last time that happened. How many years ago was that?
Dennis: That would be probably about 20 years ago. [Laughter]
Bob: About 20 years ago—that’s right. So for me, it’s probably been a dozen. It all relates to the age of our kids; doesn’t it?
Dennis: It does.
Bob: Because once your kids reach a certain age, you are never sleeping on the ground again! [Laughter]
Dennis: That’s exactly right.
Well, I want to ask our guest—I want to see when she’s done it because, frankly, with what she does,—
Bob: Maybe a little more recent than either you or me?
Dennis: Maybe. Patti Garibay joins us on FamilyLife Today. Patti is the CEO and the president of American Heritage Girls, which is an outreach to young ladies between the ages of—what, Patti?
Patti: Five to eighteen.
Dennis: Five to eighteen. So, what about it? When’s the last time you slept outdoors on the ground—we’ll let you have a tent. When did that happen?
Patti: I did have a tent. About six years ago, which is way too long; I need to do it again. [Laughter]
Bob: I’m thinking—you’re the Executive Director of American Heritage Girls—
Dennis: I would think they—
Bob: —they’ll find a cot for you. [Laughter]
Dennis: A cot, or a small camper, or something.
Bob: At least an air mattress; right?
Patti: That’s right.
Dennis: No doubt about it.
Patti, you and your husband Pat have been married for 37 years—you have four children of your own / seven grandchildren.
You’ve always had a passion for girls and wanting to help them grow to become all that God intended them to be. In fact, it was back in the mid-1990s that you were a volunteer for the Girl Scouts of America. In the midst of that, you began to see some changes that caused you concern and ultimately caused you to step out and do what you’re doing right now.
Patti: That’s so true. It was 1993 when a new resolution was coming down the pike, so to speak, from the Girl Scouts USA. It was a resolution that would allow flexibility in spiritual wording for the Girl Scout promise. I was just so concerned because I used Girl Scouts as a ministry to girls. I had led for 13 years—so a very long time. I was a Girl Scout as a young girl / my mom was my leader. I couldn’t wait for my three daughters to become Girl Scouts.
However, I had a moral dilemma when I realized that they were going to allow God no longer to be part of the foundation of Girl Scouts—the very idea that Julia Gordon Lowe, the founder, had was now going to be changed—and I wondered, “Why?” I also wondered why, serving as a delegate to the Girl Scouts, why I learned about it on the evening news at 11 o’ clock p.m. Why was it all so secretive? So I began a journey of exploration, trying to find out, “What is going on in my beloved Girl Scouts that I’m serving, and I have not seen anything about this until that evening news?”
Bob: The Girl Scouts were never, as I remember them, an overtly religious organization. There was an acknowledgment of God; but it was not denominational / it was not—spiritual development was not at the heart of what Girl Scouts was designed to do; was it?
Dennis: Well, Bob—that may be how we knew it. Now, was it originally designed at a different level?
Patti: I believe so. The oath to God was very strong. Julia Gordon Lowe was a regular, daily Bible leader.
Judeo-Christian values were the basis, as was our country at the time. But things changed, and they allowed a different kind of group to start running the Girl Scouts. It started as early as the ’70s. We began to see women’s liberation just taking over the Girl Scouts.
Although I didn’t see it at every level, I was starting to see moral relativism creeping into the curricula. Today, it has gone so far astray that we just are blessed to have, not an alternative, but a much better program called American Heritage Girls.
Dennis: You stepped out in faith to forge a new organization. How many people surrounded you as you prayed about that and ultimately said, “Let’s start American Heritage Girls”?
Patti: It’s just a handful—moms and dads, literally, around the kitchen table in West Chester, Ohio, a suburb north of Cincinnati—only wanting a club for their daughters, just during those formative years.
My third daughter was in fourth grade at the time of this decision.
I’m a third daughter as well. I thought: “She has to have something. Her older sisters were blessed with the Girl Scout program. What are we going to do for her?” But how ironic in the way the Lord works is that He brought people, just calling us from all over the country, hearing about this little club. There was interest, and we started to realize that maybe God had a bigger plan than our plan.
Bob: Now, you had to have a conversation that said: “Maybe we can appeal? Maybe we can go back to the Girl Scouts and get them to reconsider or, at least, let us, in our little area of the country, do it our way.” Did you have those conversations?
Patti: You better believe it—not only the conversations—but we proactively pursued those. For instance, we put a Christian up for a recommendation for the local council to serve on the board. That was dashed. I mean, I could go on and on about the stories regarding that. We sent telegrams because, back then, the most technology we had was a fax machine and a hand-delivered telegram to the floor of the Minneapolis convention, where the decision was being made.
We had petitions—and petitions that we had people / local people signing. So yes; we definitely tried to make a change in the Girl Scouts, but we realized that the momentum had begun long before us and that that snowball was downhill.
Dennis: Yes. I just want to stop, Patti, and just applaud you—as a woman, wife, and mom—who refused to do nothing in the face of a culture that was really pressing in hard against something you loved. It’s doing that again today—I mean, it really is on a lot of fronts. I want to call out your faith and your courage to step out into an arena and make a difference and refuse to do nothing.
I just want our listeners to hear that because I have to believe there are other women and men—perhaps young women / young men, who are facing dilemmas as well—who need to step out in faith and trust God and to be a pioneer, which you really were in those days.
Patti: I tell you—I had none of the resources that one would need to do this. The only resource I had was my faith. I think it’s so critical for your listeners to know that God does not call the equipped—He equips the called.
And the story is amazing—to hear what American Heritage Girls has become because of His faithfulness—and that has now spread all over the country—over 40,000 members this year. Hundreds of thousands of families have been affected over the last 20 years by American Heritage Girls.
That means anyone can do His work. You don’t have to wait until you have that certain degree, or you don’t have to wait until you have that certain experience. You just need to be willing to be obedient and humble, and allow Him to equip you.
Bob: Your obedience—and I don’t mean to beat a drum here—but you’re obedience was in the face of an organization that is a legacy organization that’s a part of American culture.
Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts are kind of in our social fabric as—
Dennis: —apple pie, motherhood—you know?
Bob: Exactly. The idea that you would stand up and you would say, “This is an organization that is veering in a direction that is against my values / against my faith,”—it’s taking on something that is cloaked in nobility.
I’m just curious—if a mom came to you today and said: “My mom was a Girl Scout / I was a Girl Scout. My daughter is six—I’ve just always wanted / I have always dreamed that she would follow in the footsteps of her family—she’d be a Girl Scout,” would you say to her, “Proceed with caution,” or what would you say?
Patti: Well, first, I would be totally empathetic with her. I believe that the Lord brought me through this journey, where I had a grieving process as well. I was so blessed to be raised by a father who was disabled—
—he had acute multiple sclerosis—and I never knew him to walk. He was an inspiration to me. I would go to him, in his bed, at the nursing home. Every Sunday, I would apprise him of the latest goings-on with the Girl Scouts. He said to me: “Patti, why curse the darkness? Light a candle. Start something new.” Both, with my father and my heavenly Father both encouraging / my own husband—all saying, “You have to go for this.”
There was a way to have a great option for moms now. So I feel the people that allow their daughters in Girl Scouting—they are promoting an agenda that, if they’re Christians, is probably not aligned—that was not the founder’s vision, I believe.
So for us, it’s important—it’s Christ-centered ministry—that American Heritage Girls is. It comes alongside the church. It serves as an arrow in the quiver that I believe every girl needs today. It also brings a real relevance to their faith. They put feet on their faith through learning to serve, learning to know God more, and also learning how to lead as a woman.
Bob: So, 20 years from the time that you first had a vision for this, until today, how many—do you call them troops?
Patti: Yes we do—they’re troops; that’s right. One troop is girls, five to eighteen, all in one troop. Some of our troops are as large as 120 girls because that’s what a church can do—think about that ministry that they can provide. But we have 970 troops this year, and we’re in 49 states. We’re missing the first state, which was Delaware—it’s our last state.
Dennis: Okay; listen up, folks in Delaware! [Laughter]
Dennis: There are some people in Delaware who hear this broadcast. We need a courageous woman to step up—
Patti: That’s right.
Bob: —in Delaware.
Dennis: —and step out in Delaware. My guess is there are some women who would want to step up and step out in other states. In fact, they may say, you know: “Wow! I was involved in Girl Scouts when I was a kid, and it was a great experience for me. Maybe I could give leadership because I have a daughter going through this.”
You know, it’s why I started teaching a sixth-grade Sunday school class. I really believed that I wanted my children to have a similar experience to what I had with my dad, who taught me in Sunday school. That led me to ultimately teach a sixth-grade Sunday school class for 11 years—had 550 kids go through it.
It also led to the formation of a resource—that we’re now using with American Heritage Girls—called Passport2Purity®. The reason you’ve shown interest in this is because you really believe that parents need to be called upon to provide much of the education and moral foundation of young ladies growing up.
Patti: Absolutely correct. And they need tools! Passport2Purity is one of those amazing tools that will help parents navigate that whole discussion. It’s such a difficult discussion, for some reason; and this really provides a framework and tools that parents can go about. We are so excited to partner with FamilyLife over this and many other of the resources that FamilyLife offers.
We have such synergy, as ministries, together.
Bob: Are there merit badges for American Heritage Girls?—and is it the standard camping and hiking and—I mean, that’s what I think of. When I think of scouting, I don’t think so much about spiritual formation as I think about rock-climbing, and the out-of-doors, and finding arrowheads. I was a Scout—so I got a rowing merit badge, and I got a lifesaving merit badge. Are all of these still around?
Patti: Absolutely; they are. However, it’s only one-sixth of our program, Bob. Merit badges are important—we call them “Life skills” / it’s important—but when you do it in the context of the Christian worldview, imagine how much cooler that is! And it truly really is.
Patti: But we also emphasize religious development / the spiritual development of a girl because we’re a biblically-based organization. It just lends itself to that so naturally. Also, girl leadership is important—socialization, teamwork, and building confidence.
That’s not girl-power; it is God’s power in the girl. Our whole goal is for girls to know who they are in Christ—so all of these program emphases, as we call them, work together to build that girl into the woman that Christ would mean her to be.
Dennis: Patti, I don’t know that you would necessarily know this; but we have a pretty good-sized listening audience, who are single-parent moms and single-parent dads, who are raising young ladies. This seems to me to be a ready-made ministry, not just for those girls who are being raised by both a mom and a dad in an intact family, but also families where there is only one parent there. It seems to me this could be a tremendous additional asset that a parent could be called upon to utilize in raising his or her daughter.
Patti: Absolutely. It undergirds what the family’s trying to achieve. If it’s a single mom / single dad—absolutely; there are mentors there to help these girls navigate.
Unfortunately, we hear almost weekly of someone losing their parent or a sibling passing away—you know, we’re big enough now that that happens. It’s just such a blessing to see how the AHG family comes around that family.
As a matter of fact, there is an AHG family in need—their son was in need of a kidney. Unbelievable, but a gentleman was a match that was part of their AHG troop. These families didn’t even know one another; however through the AHG family, so to speak, they were able to say, “You’re a match,” and this gentleman gave his kidney to this young boy. That’s what AHG does because God’s in it.
Dennis: Undoubtedly, you have a story or two you could tell about a young lady who started coming to American Heritage Girls and really found purpose, and meaning, and grew like a weed. You’ve been around now for 20 years; you have to have some stories that have come full circle.
Patti: I do. I have a couple great stories—I have way more than a couple!
I have one I’d love to share about Esther. Esther is a girl from Colorado Springs, Colorado. She became very interested in a merit badge called “Aviation.” She took that aviation badge all the way through. She started to hang out at some of the hangars in Colorado Springs. There were some World War II vets there, and she would start to talk with them.
When it came time for her to do her Stars and Stripes project—which is much like an Eagle project but a little more difficult because of the spiritual component—she decided: “I want to record these gentlemen’s stories for the National Archives,” / her Living History project. So she did. Then she decided that she really, really loved aviation so much she wanted to learn to fly. She wanted to become a missionary aviator. Today, Esther—her story is shown in our video called “Launch”—she is today a missionary aviator in Uganda. So you never know what these things are going to do in the world of a girl.
There’s another neat story. We attract a lot of girls with special needs, and we love that! One of those girls lives in north Dallas—her name’s Lydia. When I first met Lydia, I was to give her a level award—we call it—there’s advancement through AHG. I was so blessed to see her, but she was so afraid of me. She wouldn’t even look me in the eye. I thought, “Oh boy; how is Lydia ever going to get the Stars and Stripes?” Well, she decided she wanted to, and she wanted to create a welcome home parade for the Vietnam vets, like her dad, who had never been welcomed home.
Dennis: Oh wow.
Patti: So she did. She had to go in front of the city council of Lake Dallas—propose the proposal, and then she ended up being the mistress of ceremonies—this woman that wouldn’t even look me in the eye!—amazing stories.
Dennis: Wow. That’s cool.
Bob: So, the thing I would think most moms would want to know is: “If I got my daughter involved in American Heritage Girls—let’s say we found a troop in our area and I have my daughter going to it or we even started one at our church—will sleeping on the ground be in my future?
“Am I going to wind up on—
Dennis: Bob, you’re kind of fixated on the sleeping on the ground.
Bob: The last night that I can remember sleeping on the ground—
Dennis: You like your Serta Sleeper; do you?
Bob: The last night was not a great experience, as I remember it. [Laughter] I thought—I got up that morning, going, “Why do I choose to do this?” [Laughter] I understand if you don’t have a choice, but why would you choose to do it?
So, is a mom going—is she going to wind up on the ground somewhere?
Patti: She may; and she’ll really enjoy it because she’ll be with her daughter and some other great girls. [Laughter] You know, it’s important. I always tell the ladies, “If you don’t like to camp, find someone who does because I’ll tell you—camping’s the number-one activity of the girls that they love the most.”
Bob: Well, and again—if folks want more information about how to connect with American Heritage Girls, and find out if there is a troop near them, or how they can start one—if you go to FamilyLifeToday.com, we have a link on our website that’ll take you straight to their website. You can get all the information you need on either starting a troop or finding a troop near you.
Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com. If you don’t have web access, just call us at 1-800-FL-TODAY; and we’ll help you out.
Dennis: I’ll tell you something that I really like about American Heritage Girls—is they’re partnering with churches, and they’re also partnering with organizations like FamilyLife—where we come together and we bring the best of what we have alongside the best of what they have. We leverage it to help the next generation of moms and dads be successful. I have to tell you—looking at my own children, who are raising our grandkids, parents today need all the tools, all the assets, all the training, and all the extra voices in their kids’ lives today as never before.
I have to tell this last story on Patti before we’re done here. Patti was being shown around our office here, along with her husband Pat. They were showing her some of the resources we’ve created, Bob—I don’t think you’ve heard this story. I think it was Chris Herndon, who’s here at the office—he walked her over and showed her a couple of books that I’d written / one called Aggressive Girls, Clueless Boys and the other one, Interviewing Your Daughter’s Date.
Now, do you think the concept of interviewing your daughter’s date might become a resource for dads of American Heritage Girls?
Bob: I would think there might be some interest there; yes.
Dennis: Yes. There’s been a long history of this, Patti, of men listening to FamilyLife Today and hearing us talk about interviewing your daughter’s date because I want to tell you—there’s something that occurs in that connection with the daughter—because her daddy cares enough to protect her purity / who she is as a young lady. Don’t you see that that would be an asset to your organization?—to call dads up to be the kind of protectors that they’re supposed to be of these young ladies?
Patti: Absolutely. Absolutely—as my dad was for me. Absolutely—it’s so important. The whole family needs to be involved in any way that they can. We love to have the resources and just arm our parents because, like you said—
—I call it arrows in a quiver / you call it—but there is one thing we can agree on—target on the girls’ backs / target on the boys’ backs.
Dennis: No doubt about it. I just want to know; did you dad interview Pat before he got your hand in marriage?
Patti: He did; indeed. We were grade-school sweethearts. My husband knew him a very long time / my dad knew him a very long time. [Laughter]
Dennis: I’m looking over your shoulder, out into the control room. Pat’s back there, nodding, with his arms folded, with a knowing grin—like: “Yes; I met with him. I passed 37 years ago!” [Laughter]
Bob: You have raised the curiosity of some of our listeners, who are wondering about those books and whether they’re available for everybody. Of course, we have your book, Interviewing Your Daughter’s Date, and we have the Passport2Identity™ and Passport2Purity resources available in our FamilyLife Resource Center. Whether your daughter is a part of American Heritage Girls or not, these are things that you can do, as a parent, to proactively engage with a daughter or a son and help cultivate a healthy sense of their spiritual identity.
Let me encourage you to go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, and see the resources we have available—that Dennis has talked about here. There are links, online, and you can order from us if you’d like. We also have a link to the American Heritage Girls website if you’d like to find out more about their organization. So again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com; or if you have any questions or if you’d like to place an order by phone, call 1-800-FL-TODAY—1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
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Now, tomorrow, we are going to give young men equal time. We’re going to hear from Mark Hancock—he gives leadership to Trail Life USA®. We’ll hear about the organization he his helping to lead, and I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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