American Heritage Girls sees resurgence of Christ-centered scouting in Tulsa
BY BILL SHERMAN World Religion Writer
Saturday, December 08, 2012
12/08/12 at 5:02 AM
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A Christ-centered leadership and character development program for girls ages 5-18 is experiencing a resurgence in the Tulsa area.
American Heritage Girls has grown from one troop to three troops in the Tulsa area since summer, and more troops are being formed.
"All of a sudden it's just taken off," said Susan Collier, coordinator of Troop OK0002, which meets weekly at the Augustine Christian Academy near 31st Street and Sheridan Road.
"When my daughter Tiffany joined AHG during the summer of 2010, there were five girls in the troop," she said. "Today, Troop OK0002 has 50 girls registered."
American Heritage Girls is a scouting organization similar to Girl Scouts, offering a variety of activities and service projects, and merit badges for goals reached.
"The main difference from the Girl Scouts is that we are Christ-based, as opposed to secular," Collier said.
Christian prayer is encouraged at meetings. Bible verses are memorized.
The Tulsa area's three troops are chartered through the Augustine Christian Academy, Church of St. Benedict in Broken Arrow and Evergreen Baptist Church in Bixby. A fourth troop will begin in January at Fellowship Bible Church in Tulsa.
"This group is unashamedly Christian," Melissa Woods said. Her daughter watched her brothers go through scouting and wanted to do something similar, she said.
"She loves it. We're a big scouting family," said Woods, whose oldest son, now 18, is an Eagle Scout.
The Rev. Christian Tiews, associate pastor of Grace Lutheran Church, has a 6-year-old daughter in the organization.
"I think its wonderful," he said. "It's growing by leaps and bounds. ... It's kind of a critical mass thing. As they grow, more people hear about it."
He attributed its growth to good leadership, and to its appeal to people who are looking for alternatives.
"Some Girl Scout troops have stressed feminism a little bit. They've been pulled into the culture more than I'm comfortable with," he said.
"AHG is very Christian and focuses on traditional values. It doesn't seem to have the political agenda that the Girl Scouts have. I think that's one reason it's blossoming. A lot of people feel the way I do and my wife does."
At Monday's Troop OK0002 meeting at Augustine Christian Academy, the girls presented the colors, said the Pedge of Allegiance to the flag and recited the American Heritage Girls oath: "I promise to love God, cherish my family, honor my country and serve in my community."
Hannah Green, 9, said she joined the organization this year.
"I like it very much; it's fun," she said Monday as she sat around a table with several other girls making ornaments and necklaces.
"I heard that we might do horsemanship. I'm looking forward to that because horses are my favorite animal," Hannah said.
Woods said community service is a big part of the program. The girls have packed food for Christ for Humanity, made hats and scarves for residents of the John 3:16 Mission, and served as bell ringers for The Salvation Army.
All three troops marched together in the Tulsa Veterans Day parade.
American Heritage Girls was founded in 1995 in Cincinnati with 10 troops and 100 members. It now has more than 22,000 members in 48 states and four countries, said Jody Token, national public relations coordinator.
Token said the organization had new troop growth of 68 percent from last year.
"Our mission continues to be laser-focused: building women of integrity through service to God, family, community and country," she said.
Last year, the organization logged more than 230,000 hours of community service.
The program is the only all-girls' organization that has a memorandum of mutual support agreement with the Boy Scouts of America, which they consider their brother organization.
Original Print Headline: Christ-centered scouting
Bill Sherman 918-581-8398
American Heritage Girls in Troop OK0002 say the Pledge of Allegiance at their Monday meeting. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World
Jonci Starling (left), Madelynn Woods and Anna Mangialomini make Christmas ornaments Monday at Augustine Christian Academy. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World