Severna Park Baptist Church (SPBC) has chartered two new scouting programs — American Heritage Girls (AHG) and a Trail Life USA for boys — and excitement is building.
Darrin and Stacey Benning, members of SPBC, are leaders of the groups. Both have been involved in scouting for years. Darrin and his son, DJ, are both Eagle Scouts. They’ve enjoyed the fun, challenge, service and lifetime friendships scouting provides. The couple homeschooled DJ during his junior and senior high school years, and Stacey said the hands-on learning and the studying required to earn badges was a great asset to the homeschooling program.
The newer clubs follow the same type of programming with uniforms, opening ceremonies, flags, badges and camping.
“Scouts can also transfer their badges,” Stacey said. “That way, they don’t have to start over.”
The new groups have more of a religious emphasis than traditional scouting. “They’re very similar to scouting, but they emphasize the idea of godly girls growing up to be godly women, and godly boys growing up to be godly men,” Stacey said.
The programs also have a strong emphasis on service to the community. This fall, they’ll partner with Operation Christmas Child, which is organized by Samaritan’s Purse, to pack shoeboxes filled with small toys and hygiene items for needy children throughout the world — some of whom will receive little balls or dolls for the first time. They’ll also be available to help local community groups with projects as needed.
AHG founder Patti Garibay started the group with a few moms sitting around a table in her Ohio home. Garibay loved scouting but was uncomfortable with the way her troop was asked to handle matters of faith. She liked the scout’s promise to serve God, but coming from a Christian background, she wasn’t comfortable when an asterisk was added, and the girls were told they could substitute any word they liked for “God.”
She and the others designed a similar program that was more faith-based in a way they were comfortable with, and the idea took off. That was more than 20 years ago, and the program has blossomed. According to the AHG website, the group has enjoyed 42 percent growth, with more than 970 troops throughout the United States and more than 42,000 members.
The AHG group helped form Trail Life for the boys in 2013 and that quickly grew to 20,000 members within a year. Darrin emphasized that the new groups aren’t meant to replace Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, just to offer an alternative.
Stacey said SPBC is a small church, so the two groups will meet at the same time. They’ll stay together for opening ceremonies, work in individual groups for 45 minutes and then return for closing.
Registration will be held at the church from 2:00pm to 4:00pm on September 8 and there will be an open house and registration at 6:30pm on September 25. Weekly meetings will start on October 2. If in-person registration is not convenient, call the church office at 410-647-0765 and provide an email address. A registration link will be forwarded.
Read more about the groups at www.americanheritagegirls.com and www.traillifeusa.com.