By AMBER POMPA
American Heritage Girls, originally founded in Ohio, has spread to Texas and now girls of Hunt County have a local chapter they can join, thanks to Kristi Swanson.
AHG is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the mission of building women of integrity through service to God, family, community and country.
It was first founded in 1995 in West Chester, Ohio by a group of parents who had become disillusioned with the increasing secular focus of existing organizations and wanted a wholesome program for their daughters.
It began its first year of programming in the fall of 1995 with about 10 troops and roughly 100 members. The organization spans 39 states with Texas hosting 18 different troops and now Hunt County has been added to the list.
“I started my own troop of American Heritage Girls in November of last year after being turned off by the way Girl Scouts USA seemed to be getting away from its moral roots and leaning more toward worldly compromise,” said Swanson, leader of Troop TX2010. “I was a Girl Scout troop leader and served on my local council for more than three years and I loved what Girl Scouts USA had to offer my daughters, but my core values compelled me to take a stand and seek other alternatives for these types of activities. American Heritage Girls has filled that need.”
The change in the official Girl Scout promise was one of the things that made Swanson want to branch away from the organization.
“Many people are not award that Girl Scouts USA allows a substitute word to be spoken in place of the world “God” in the official Girl Scout promise,” said Swanson.
In March of 2010, the group known by Girl Scouts as WAGGGS (Word Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts) allowed one of their delegates from Greece to speak at the United Nation’s Commission on the Status of Women in New York City, where she and her fellow delegates demanded, “accessible, affordable and safe abortions should be made part of the minimum packages of sexual and reproductive health services,” according to Swanson.
“There is a publication made by Girl Scouts USA, called ‘What We Stand For,’ which states that the organization does not take a stand on the issue of abortion, yet they allowed a representative of an organization funded in part by Girl Scouts USA to speak out on the issue,” she added.
AHG offers badge programs, service projects, girl leadership opportunities and outdoor experience to its members. There are even travel opportunities for girls sixth grade and up, with this year’s trip being a Christian Heritage tour of Washington D.C. The program spans from kindergarten to 12th grade.
In order to get her troop off the ground, Swanson approached the Greenville YMCA, who agreed to be the Troop’s Charter.
After rounding up charter fees and corporate sponsors to help pay the cost of said fees, Swanson was on her way.
“Now I’m trying to get the word out,” she said. “I’m hoping that other troops will get started and the YMCA is willing to allow them to start under their Charter. I’ve got 28 girls in my troop right now and can’t take on any more.”
According to Swanson, AHG is a tad more expensive than other scouting organizations, but it exclusively teaches morals based on Biblical principles. The organization is endorsed by Boy Scouts of America and by Dr. James Dobson in his new book, “Brining up Girls.”
For more information on AHG visit ahgonline.org. Anyone interested in starting an AHG troop is encouraged to contact the YMCA for more information and to get Swanson’s contact information for assistance starting up a troop.