By EmmaLee Italia | Correspondent
The saying “big things come in small packages” may never have been more true than for the American Heritage Girls Troop NJ 0428 in St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel.
In December, the small group of four girls made a big impact with a collection of diapers and maternity clothes for Birthright of Freehold, a pregnancy resource center, and in doing so, they earned their AHG Respect Life Patch.
“We really did this in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe, since she is the patroness of the Americas and of the unborn,” said troop coordinator Maura Domashinski.
The collection of more than 2,000 diapers and about 18 sets of maternity clothes, donated by the St. Benedict School and parish communities over the course of three weeks, was donated Dec. 12, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
American Heritage Girls, a national faith-based character development program for girls 5-18 that is similar to the Boy Scouts, was founded in 1995. Its core values include patriotism, service to community, national history awareness and Christian values.
Troop 0428 got off the ground at St. Benedict Parish in 2015. When Domashinski first felt drawn to begin the troop, she researched the organization, discovering that it was approved by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. A link to AHG is even available on the USCCB website.
“It’s about shepherding girls in a way that honors God and helps them grow,” Domashinski said of AHG.
The idea for the clothing and diaper drive came to Domashinski in October, and with permission from Deacon Rich Morris, troop advisor, the group was given the go-ahead to conduct the project to earn a Respect Life Patch.
Girls can earn the patch by participating in an event that brings attention to respecting life, or by providing a service project for an organization whose mission demonstrates a desire to respect life.
Representatives at Birthright of Freehold were overjoyed to receive the donations.
“It was wonderful, and I’m very grateful that they would take the time to do that and to encourage life,” director Eileen Cassidy said. “I’m happy to know of their existence – that they’re out there.”
Upon receiving the diapers, Birthright volunteers requested prayers for the young pregnant women who receive the facility’s assistance.
“Troop members had made cards to go in the boxes for the mothers, sending their thoughts and love,” Domashinski said.
Birthright International was founded in Toronto, Canada, in 1968 by Louise Summerhill, a housewife and mother of seven children who wanted to create a resource for women experiencing an unplanned pregnancy. Now there are Birthright chapters all over the world. The Freehold chapter opened its doors in May 1972.
With a 24-hour crisis hotline, pregnant women can contact the all-volunteer organization for free pregnancy testing, referral to a doctor for prenatal care, and donations of maternity wear and supplies up to a year after giving birth. Much of the supplies are donated by local service organizations such as the Knights of Columbus, and because some of the women are homeless, some have been referred to organizations such as Good Counsel Homes.
Domashinski said the troop members themselves were impressed with the number of diapers people donated, and the service project provided a jumping-off place for learning about those in need.
“It created some interesting conversations, and good talking points,” Domashinski said. “The Blessed Mother herself was young and had an unexpected pregnancy… It helped them to learn to count their blessings. I really felt the presence of the Blessed Mother in all this. It was beautiful.”
American Heritage Girls Troop NJ0428 is happy to recruit more members, Domashinski said, with all its meetings open to girls and their parents who are interested to learn more.
To learn more about the Freehold Birthright and its services, call 732-462-2888. For questions about American Heritage Girls, visit www.AmericanHeritageGirls.org.