Editor’s Note: This continues our Celebrate Community series on nonprofit organizations that improve North Okaloosa County residents’ quality of life.
CRESTVIEW — American Heritage Girls is a national Christ-centered organization for 5- to 18-year-olds. The nonprofit promotes community service and patriotism, and has a Crestview component in AHG Troop FL 3125.
The local troop has about 12 members who meet twice a month at Our Lady of Victory, a Catholic church. Sue Ho, the group's vice coordinator, credited a military spouse and former Northwest Florida resident, Danni Barker, with forming Crestview's AHG.
"She spearheaded the whole thing and got all the things going for that," Ho said.
In chartering a troop, Barker had to find a local ministry organization, referred to as a charter organization on the AHG website; connect with a troop development coach; find a ministry representative for the charter organization; and form a troop board of five adults for representation, coordination, treasurer and shepherd.
The Crestview troop became official after visiting with a sister troop in Pensacola.
"We got together with them two years ago and stayed overnight on the USS Alabama. They helped us get going," Ho said.
Since then, the troop has been active in the Crestview community.
"We promote a lot of going out there and helping your fellow man and growing into a great citizen with respect and God fearing," Troop Coordinator Lisa Fisher said. "They don't start earning badges until that first year (age 5), but there are necklaces and beads they can earn.”
"As they start to get older and progress up through the higher levels, that helps them start taking leadership roles … They start maturing and being able to talk to adults and start making plans," she said.
The most recent leadership process for the troop was arranging a craft and bake sale fundraiser. Older troop members took the responsibility of contacting Walmart and Publix, making a schedule for who would be at the fundraiser and when. Younger members focused on creating crafts for the sale, according to Fisher. The troop raised $150 for its activities and charter fees.
Three members, Alyssa Smith, Miriam Ho and Taylor Smith, have finished requirements for an AHG Lewis & Clark Award, which they each received May 21. To qualify, Explorers in fourth through sixth grades must complete three years of badge activities and community service hours. They also have to create, implement and execute a community service project of their own making.
Alyssa's project was the organization of a St. Patrick's Day-themed bingo event at an assisted living facility. She collected prizes for participating residents and had the troop members call bingo numbers.
Miriam led a ministry that crocheted baby blankets for new moms. She created the pattern used for the ministry and taught people how to crochet for the effort.
Taylor's project involved contacting Disabled American Veterans to secure the troop's participation in the wreath laying ceremony on soldiers' graves for Memorial Day. She created the wreaths used by the troop as well.
Lisa Fisher, who has been with the troop over three years and now serves as its coordinator, discussed its plans for the year, which include walking in the Veterans Day parade, pro-life activities such as collecting diapers and other necessities for the Crestview Pregnancy Center, and visiting assisted living facility and nursing home residents.
They are also considering a possible return trip the USS Alabama.
As a faith-based organization, the troop always tries to include something that’s of service to God, Fisher said.
"One of the badges we're trying to work on is the Fatima badge as a troop. They're learning about St. Justina at Our Lady of Fatima. It's just an extra badge for the year," she said.
The AHG National Catholic Committee created the limited edition badge to mark the 100th anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima's appearance to three Portuguese children in the early 1900s.