Called to do Something Bigger



Photo by Tracy Doyle

 

What happens when you start a small program for girls in Cincinnati, and it grows into a huge national organization? According to Patti Garibay, founder and executive director of American Heritage Girls (AHG), you give God all the credit.

“This isn’t about me,” she says. “This is all about Him and what He called us to do.”

As a Girl Scout volunteer of 13 years, Garibay became concerned when the organization changed one of its foundational principles in 1995. When her attempts to make changes locally and nationally failed, she decided to branch out on her own.

“I started something that I thought would just be for my daughter, to help her have fun with scouting but still be based on the Biblical principles that are important to our family.”

Garibay thought the group would last a few years. As the girls were busy having fun, however, word began to spread. “People were calling me from as far away as California.”

That’s when Garibay realized, “Wow, this is no longer just about me and my daughter. This is truly about something the nation needs, and God is calling us to do something bigger.”

Garibay was a busy mom with four kids, who had a background as a secondary French teacher and a volunteer. “I had absolutely no time to do anything like this,” she says. “But I believe if God brings you to it, He will bring you through it.”

And He did.

The Christ-centered character development program has grown to include over 42,000 members with troops in every state across the nation and eight other countries. Over 17,000 volunteers donate their time to serve young ladies ages 5 to 18 through the nonprofit.

Along with the key faith component, AHG is also outwardly focused. “The girls learn best when they give themselves away by serving others.” Garibay says that serving helps the girls discover their passions. AHG offers a large badge program with over 240 experiences where the girls can learn about their passions and different occupations.

Girls give hundreds of thousands of service hours to their communities every year during AHG’s National Day of Service. “The girls love to serve,” she says. “And they love that feeling you get when you help another person.”

To reach their full potential, Garibay believes it is critical for girls to understand their identity – that they are created in the image of God. “If girls can understand who they are and whose they are, they are going to have a great impact in a positive way in our nation and the world,” she says. “It’s great to encourage girls that the sky is the limit, and they can achieve great things.”

AHG partners with churches, schools and other nonprofit organizations to expand their youth ministries. The girls enjoy making friends and having fun, while being stretched and growing in leadership skills. AHG outdoor activities include camping, high ropes, rock climbing and canoeing.

AHG has experienced amazing growth over the years, but the organization hasn’t outgrown its Christ-centered foundation and governing passion: “It was all done out of the love for girls,” Garibay says.

 

For more information about AHG, visit www.americanheritagegirls.org.