Knowing how to protect your body, mind, and spirit is half the battle during any time of tragedy and uncertainty. Yes, it’s essential that we wash our hands, disinfect surfaces properly, and abide by overall safety precautions, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but it is also crucial to guard our hearts and minds against stress and anxiety during this time as well.
As a part of my series about the things we can do to develop serenity and support each other during anxious times, I had the pleasure of interviewing Patti Garibay
For more than two decades, Patti Garibay has been at the forefront of countering the culture by leading girls and women to creating lives of integrity. She is the founder and executive director of American Heritage Girls (AHG), national Christ-centered leadership and character development program. She helps thousands of girls discover their true identity and purpose in Christ through AHG’s transformative programming.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
Mystory is a bit unconventional as starting a non-profit ministry is not something I ever wanted to do but was something I felt called to do. Here is where it all began, before creating American Heritage Girls (AHG), I served for 12 years as an active leader and volunteer in Girl Scouts USA (GSUSA). I used my service in GSUSA as an opportunity to share the gospel with my Troop in West Chester, Ohio. In response to significant changes in the direction of GSUSA in 1993, the course of my life changed. I heard the voice of God call me to start something new. Through the encouragement and support of both my husband and father, that’s what I did. Initially, my goal was to start a little club for my youngest daughter to get her through her formative years — but God had bigger plans. News about what I was doing spread rapidly, and I started receiving calls from across the country from parents who wanted their daughters to be a part as well. So, drawing strength from my wealth of leadership opportunities, my love for my country and my passion for youth development, I leaped out on faith to start AHG in 1995. Here we are today, 25 years later, 50 states later, 15 countries later, and hundreds of thousands of families later. The Lord is so good!”
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
There are so many stories and God incidents. Throughout my husband and I’s parenting years, we listened to Dr. James Dobson’s radio show. He became our “on-air” parenting coach. Somehow through the radio waves and his sensible approach to parenting, we trusted him and followed every bit of his advice. After growing the AHG Ministry for about a decade, we were invited to be part of his radio show and were the first live guests on his new show. What an honor to be on a parenting show featuring our mentor, but this time sharing advice on parenting with today’s parents. Full circle, I might say!
What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?
Non-profit work is not for the faint of heart! My advice for others in this industry is to walk out your purpose and work one step at a time. No organization is built overnight, and as you go along pursuing the mission of your work, you will have bumps in the road and what I like to call “skinned-knees” — and believe me, I’ve had my fair share. But to thrive and avoid burnout, it takes a level of focus, grit, and patience to work on building your organization piece by piece. Be willing to go back to the drawing board to re-evaluate what’s working and what isn’t. Don’t be intimidated by what may look like setbacks, and instead use them as learning lessons to propel you forward in your mission. Stay teachable because no matter whether you’re one year in, 15 years in, or 25 years in, there is always more to learn.
And most importantly, develop a strong spiritual practice that will sustain you through the highs and the lows. For me, I pray and read scripture daily. I also seek the wisdom and advice of other leaders of integrity, and I ask God what he has for me each day, and I say “yes” moment by moment.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
In many ways, work culture is determined by the overall makeup of your organization’s staff. There was a time in AHG’s history, in which myself and the leadership team realized that we needed a work culture overhaul within the AHG Inc. Office. We needed to have not only staff members who felt called to the mission of AHG, but also a staff placed into work roles that were best suited for their passions and skillsets. When people are working in areas they can be confident in and bring value, it shows in the overall culture.
At AHG, we secured the help of corporate culture experts who equipped us with the tools to transform our work culture. We went from a “too nice culture” to a culture of people who are committed to communicating in love, truth, and integrity.
My advice to other leaders who desire to transform their work culture is not to be afraid to ask for help and break out of the status quo to create a work culture that propels the organization forward.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
I absolutely love Patrick Lencioni’s The Ideal Team Player. My experience underscores his premise of the ideal team player being “hungry, humble and smart.” This works every time!
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. The past 5 years have been filled with upheaval and political uncertainty. Many people have become anxious just from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The upcoming fears of an impending coronavirus pandemic have only heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to develop serenity during such uncertain times? Can you please share a story or example for each.
- Holistically protect yourself and your family. Knowing how to protect your body, mind, and spirit is half the battle during any time of tragedy and uncertainty. Yes, it’s essential that we wash our hands, disinfect surfaces properly, and abide by overall safety precautions, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but it is also crucial to guard our hearts and minds against stress and anxiety during this time as well. Thankfully there are so many resources available to us right now — encouraging articles, uplifting music, and helpful video tutorials and documentaries.
- Connect with others. Although most of the world is practicing physical distancing to flatten the impact of COVID-19, there are still a plethora of ways to connect with friends and family. Have a game night with those you live with, schedule a movie night with loved ones over Zoom, call the people you’ve meant to contact for months now, join Facebook groups that interest you, and make new friends virtually. Most importantly, remember that we all need community and the love and care of each other as everyone navigates our new normal.
- Be laser-focused. With the fast-paced world of media and information sharing, it can be hard to decide where to put your focus. Do you focus on the latest facts and figures and the latest predictions? Instead of zooming in and focusing on information that could cause worry and stress, step away from the noise of the news coverage and instead focus on things and people that bring you joy. By focusing on a project, or connecting with friends and family, you can keep what matters most at the forefront.
- Develop a new routine. Let’s face it, changes from COVID-19 have bumped many of us out of our regular daily routines. However, as you navigate what life will look like for the foreseeable future, develop some new routines for you and your family to maintain consistency. Perhaps you can still wake up around your typical time, set limits for television and social media, and have set dinnertime each night. Routine helps to alleviate the potential stress that can come with flying by the seat of your pants throughout the day and can help you to feel anchored.
- Get outside. While so many activities and events may be canceled, the opportunity to step out and play in the yard, or go for a nature walk is still accessible with the appropriate safety precautions. Getting fresh air is good for the body and the mind and helps us to stay connected to the physical world around us. Set aside time each day to spend quality moments outside.
What are the best resources you would suggest to a person who is feeling anxious?
Particularly for families and children, here is a list of six excellent resources to gain knowledge and put into practical ways to keep your body, mind, and spirit healthy:
- 10 Trauma Principles to Practice during COVID-19 by B2B Ministries
Creating a non-anxious environment:
- How to Talk to Kids about the Coronavirus by JOANNIE DEBRITO, PH.D., LCSW, LMFT
Focus on the Family provides talking points to families and ideas on how to stay connected during tragedy and uncertainty.
- A Calming Word about the Coronavirus by Joni Eareckson-Tada
- How to Talk to Children About the Coronavirus by Cameron Cole
The Gospel Coalition answers questions girls may pose about how to respond as a Christ-follower to the COVID-19.
- Helping Kids Navigate Anxiety Podcast by Sissy Goff, Director of Child and Adolescent Counseling at Daystar Counseling Ministries in Nashville, Tennessee
Tools for leaders helping kids process anxiety.
- Managing Fear and Anxiety During a Health Pandemic by Dr. Chinwé Williams
A blog post for parents on managing anxiety during any number of life disruptions.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
My favorite “Life Lesson Quote” was actually told to me by my father around the time I felt called to start something new and didn’t know that my “yes” to the call would become American Heritage Girls. He said to me, “Why Curse the Darkness When You Can Light a Candle?” These words seemed to have permeated my life from that moment until this day over 25 years later. I cling to the words in that question when days seem dark, and the road gets challenging in the work we do through AHG every day. The ministry of AHG lights a pro-life candle in a pro-choice world; it lights a candle of purity and modesty in an oversexualized culture, it lights a candle of faith over fear in a world of uncertainty from moment to moment. I have even written a book titled “Why Curse the Darkness When You Can Light a Candle?” The book will be released this summer. These words have become a part of the lyrics in my life’s anthem.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I truly believe in the benefits and transformational power that is found in the AHG program. To invest in youth is to invest in our nation’s future and I can’t think of a better way to spend my life. Working with girls, in particular, is very inspirational as their influence is not only in the boardroom but in the nursery. The hand that rocks the cradle truly rules the nation. My hope is that through AHG girls learn what it means to be a woman of integrity, influence, and faith.
What is the best way our readers can follow you online?
Readers can visit https://americanheritagegirls.org/, find American Heritage Girls on Facebook and LinkedIn, and search @ahgfun on Instagram, and @AHGnews on Twitter.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!