“There is a need in today’s society for girls to know the love of Christ, the joy of lasting friendships and the fun of wholesome experiences,” county resident Melissa Gemes said.
Gainsville Baptist Church soon will be the host facility for a nonprofit organization, similar to Girl Scouts of America, which focuses on faith, family and God.
Called American Heritage Girls, the organization maintains troops throughout the United States, with a mission of building women of integrity through service to families, communities, God and country, Gemes said.
The target start date for AHG Lincoln County Troop NC1273, whose charter was approved by the county in June, will be Sept. 19. An informational session will be 6:30 p.m. Sept. 5 at the church.
The troop also plans to host a booth at the upcoming fall Apple Festival.
Melissa’s husband, David Gemes, is spearheading the group. While the family initially served under an AHG group in Stanley, David felt strongly about starting one closer to home.
“He has worked very hard this spring completing the required paperwork and working closely with the church to get this troop ready to go this fall,” Melissa said.
She is planning on filling the role of “troop shepherd” and completing any other necessary responsibilities for the local program, which will meet one-and-a-half hours every other Thursday each month.
Unlike traditional Girl Scout troops, AHG is dedicated entirely to God.
“For those who view the Girl Scouts of America as too liberal, American Heritage Girls offers an alternative,” Melissa said.
A former Girl Scout herself, she particularly noted a significant change to the program that occurred in 1993 when the organization launched an effort allowing girls to substitute “Allah” or other religious names for God in the organization’s oath.
AHG, what Melissa described as a “character development organization,” was founded that same year in response to the liberal changes taking place with Girls Scouts.
While she is in no way against traditional scout troops, she believes that girls and young women should have the opportunity to be a part of an organization completely committed to Christianity.
“It embraces Christian values and encourages family involvement,” she said.
Through the program, girls will develop spiritually, socially, emotionally and physically from immersing themselves in AHG’s “open, caring and accepting atmosphere,” Melissa said.
Along with participation in local parades and events, the Lincoln County AHG troop will complete badge work through service trips, fundraisers and other get-togethers in addition to mother-daughter and father-daughter bonding opportunities.
The program is for girls ages 5 to 18. Levels include “Pathfinders” (ages 5-6), “Tenderhearts” for (ages 6-9), “Explorers” (ages 9-12), “Pioneers” (ages12-14) and “Patriots” (ages 14-18).
The local chapter currently has three adult volunteers and five board members but is still looking for additional help.
For more information on AHG, visit ahgonline.org.
The organization will sponsor a National Day of Service on Sept. 21.