The Plant City branch of American Heritage Girls is kicking off its new year and is ready to start spreading the word about its involvement with Wreaths Across America.
Local youth who wish to join a faith-based, scout-style program are in luck. American Heritage Girls is celebrating five years in Plant City and the group is just kicking off its new season.
The organization, founded in 1995 by a group of parents who wanted a faith-based character development program for their daughters to attend, has 43,000 members in all 50 states and 12 other countries where American students live.
The AHG Program is “dedicated to the mission of building women of integrity through service to God, family, community and country. AHG girls across the nation and the globe participate in badge programs, service projects, leadership opportunities, and outdoor experiences, all with an emphasis on Christian values and family involvement,” according to its motto.
In Plant City, Janelle Simmons has officially taken the reins of Troop FL0014 from former troop coordinator Cindy Bentley-Roberts, who is still acting as an advancement chair for the group. The troop has grown by leaps and bounds over the past five years and girls age 5 to 18 are learning about love of country, moral integrity and the value of giving back.
One of the troop’s largest fundraisers, the Wreaths Across America program, is now officially underway.
The program provides Remembrance Wreaths for the graves of veterans across the nation during the holidays and the local Plant City troop always participates in the event at the Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell. Waking up before dawn, the girls pile into the car and make the hour-long drive to ensure wreaths are placed with honor on graves across the cemetery.
You have the options of buying one for any grave or getting a special Remembrance Wreath for someone you love that is buried at the cemetery. Bentley-Roberts said her dad is now buried in Bushnell and it adds an entirely new level of meaning to the experience. There are approximately 131,000 veterans and their dependents buried there and Bentley-Roberts said the goal is to one day have one wreath on every grave.
By the time the sun is up, the girls — along with other volunteers like members of local Scouting groups — have honored thousands of graves throughout the cemetery and move on to the public ceremony at 11 a.m.
“It’s such an emotional experience,” Bentley-Roberts said. “I started doing this nine years ago and we just fell in love with it. It’s one of those things I’ve never wanted to miss. And the girls, well, they all seem to agree because they really look forward to it every year. We have almost 100 percent troop participation.”
Service is a massive part of the organization’s foundation and Bentley-Roberts said it was one of the main things that drove her to first get her daughter, Bentley, involved in the group in Brandon. The programs are non-territorial, so you can enroll wherever is most convenient for you. From there, they checked out several other locations over the years and Bentley continued to grow in leadership. By the time they decided to carve out a space for the program in Plant City, Bentley-Roberts said her daughter had fully stepped into a leadership role with the group.
“There are lots and lots of opportunities for girls to learn valuable life skills that they really may not find somewhere else,” Bentley-Roberts said. “These girls are taught six Program Emphases: faith, leadership, citizenship, life skills, emotional and social, and they really are so well-rounded once they complete the program.”
In fact, many of the girls love the program so much they decide to remain active in it after they age out, taking on mentorship rolls and helping set up service projects for the younger generations behind them.
For more information regarding AHG, visit americanheritagegirls.org or follow the local group on social media. You can find more information about local troops online at
To purchase a wreath in person:
Sat. Sept. 28 – G5 Feed & Outdoor 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Sat. Oct 19 – G5 Feed & Outdoor 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Sat. Nov 2 – Antioch Day 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Sat. Nov 9 – G5 Feed & Outdoor 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
To purchase a wreath online: