Scout-like program for girls established in Gallitzin

GALLITZIN – At a recent outing to the Lemon House, Frontier Girls Leader Lori Shaw took notice of one of the traits the newly formed group was helping to instill in some of the members of Troop 213, Gallitzin – the older girls in the group were watching out for the younger ones.

“The older girls get to mentor the younger girls. Even when we go on outings and such, the older girls watch over the younger ones,” Shaw said. “All of them look to each other for motivation and encouragement.”

Frontier Girls is a scout-like program for girls in preschool through high school, offering them the potential to earn more than 1,200 individual badges, according to the program’s website. Frontier Girls aims to raise mothers and leaders through a program based on community service, patriotism, teamwork and leadership skills.

“It gives them opportunities to try different things. For some girls it gives them opportunities to travel and experience camping and things of that nature that they may not experience with their own families,” Shaw said. “I’m always searching for that above and beyond trip to do. The girls call it Ms. Lori’s special touches.”

The program goals are to develop moral character, interpersonal skills and confidence and strength, and foster a love of learning, according to Shaw.

Frontier Girls Troop 213 formed in November and is the first troop established in central Pennsylvania, Shaw said.

Founded in 2007, the program has 120 troops in 39 states, said Kerry Cordy of California, the owner and founder of Frontier Girls.

“While we were founded in 2007, we did not really start to expand until 2010 as the first few years were needed to work out the bugs in the program,” Cordy said. “New troops are forming every month. Unlike Girl Scouts, Frontier Girls is not a nonprofit organization. We simply sell subscriptions to our website that contains the programming materials, and a license to use our name and uniform. Each of our troops is individually owned and operated. Most troops are run by a local nonprofit such as a church, school or veterans groups, though we do have one owned by a local fire department and another owned by a country club.”

According to the group’s website, the annual membership fee is $25 per child or $50 per family.

Troop 213’s sponsor is St. Demetrius Catholic Church, Gallitzin.

The troop meets together and can work on their badges as a whole, but at different levels, Leader Patty McCready said. More requirements to earn a badge are needed as the girls advance through the levels, which are: Otters, 5- to 8-year-olds; Dolphins, 8- to 11-year-olds; Butterfliess, 11- to 14-year-olds; and Eagles, 14- to 18 year-olds.

There is also a Penguins level for 3- to 5-year-olds, but the Gallitzin troop does not currently offer it.

McCready, Shaw’s sister, and whose daughter, Sarah, 11, is in the troop, considers the program costs reasonable. Also, any money the troop earns goes to the troop.

Patriotism is a big part of Frontier Girls, Shaw said.

Frontier Girls offers a Patriot Program for girls who have a family member such as a parent, grandparent, or sibling actively serving in the military.

“They wear special badges to show they’re enduring the sacrifice along with their family,” Shaw said. “I like the concentration on that. They really do encourage a lot of activity with the armed forces.”

Frontier Girls encourages troops to participate in Valentines for Vets, Adopt a Troop and to march in parades with their own color guard unit.

Troop 213 participated in the 2012 Veterans Day program in Gallitzin.

Sarah, a fifth-grader at Penn Cambria Middle School, has earned badges for such activities as hunting, animal care, Our flag and sewing. She has performed 20 hours of community service, earning her a Servant’s Heart Award.

To earn it, troops are required to complete three community service projects annually, the troop’s sponsor and one ongoing project of the girl’s choice. Otters must complete five hours of community service, Dolphins, 10; Butterflies, 15; and Eagles, 20.

Sarah earned hours as an altar server at St. Demetrius Catholic Church, and a back-to-school clothing drive for the church. She also volunteered her efforts elsewhere such as collecting food for donation to the Cresson Food Pantry with her brother, Jared, 14, who is in Boy Scouts.

While she did not have to kill an animal to earn her hunting badge, Sarah went hunting with her dad, Pat, in November. She shot a 4-point buck with a crossbow. She said the shocking moment that earned her bragging rights happened quickly. She wants to keep hunting.

“I really like just being with my dad,” she said.

Sarah also earned a badge for piano, which she has played for two years, and said, “I really like learning new songs and new notes.”

What Sarah likes about Frontier Girls is being with friends and mentoring those younger than her, she said.

In just the few months since the troop started, Shaw has seen the girls blossom.

Troop member Emily James, 8, a second-grader at Penn Cambria, said she has earned badges for American Girl, carolling, sewing, post cards and Our flag.

Her mom, Lynn, said her daughter is shy, but Shaw has a way of drawing her out.

She sees girls from all the levels developing, Shaw said.

“That’s why you do this,” she said. “You do it to help them develop into their own person.”

Mirror Staff Writer Amanda Gabeletto is at 949-7030.