BROOKSVILLE — For those who would like their children to take part in a Scout-type organization that is religion-based, a local Seventh-day Adventist Church has begun offering a Pathfinder Club for boys and girls in grades 1 through high school.
According to its online site, the club was first offered to children in Anaheim, Calif., in the 1920s "for the sole purpose of (helping them in) growing closer to their fellow men and women, and to their Creator."
The organization's pledge instructs children to be pure, kind and true. The rules teach them to be a servant to God and a friend to man.
More specifically, it instructs them to have personal Bible study each day; help others; be temperate in all things; strive for a higher standard of physical fitness; refrain from lying, cheating, profane speech and thought; be kind and thoughtful; be quiet, careful and reverent; be cheerful and happy, and always ready to share their faith.
Fred Madden is the director of the local group, having started meetings four months ago with the encouragement of church member Taly Velez. About six other adults help with supervision, including Madden's wife, Elma. Currently, there are about a dozen children attending. But with the emphasis on having meetings during the school year, Madden expects that number to increase this fall.
"We've been meeting this summer to drum up more kids," he said. "We've been doing a lot of crafts like building birdhouses and making papier-mache fish with an open mouth so they could put Jonah (from the Bible story) inside."
The meetings open and close with prayer, Madden said.
The children have also been learning public speaking skills by showing the things they've made and talking about how they made them at Saturday church meetings.
"The kids were happy to get up and show them off," Madden said. "We have a children's story every church meeting. And this time, instead of having that, all the children that made a fish — and I made my rooster — we got up and told how we did it. Some of the children are shy, so it was a good thing for them mentally and educationally. We try to expand their horizons and give them different things to do and think about."
Last weekend, club members camped out on Velez's property in Ridge Manor.
"He's got five horses and three huge dogs, a swimming pool and a big open area," Madden said.
According to Velez, who is the group's co-director, the church is bearing the club expenses.
"There are no dues, because we are just starting," he said. "Eventually we might have to charge fees, because we do a lot of crafts and go camping."
More than 500 earnable honors are listed at the online site. Madden hopes to have the children pursue many of them.
"The lessons are character building, and they earn honors that are very similar to merit badges in the Boy and Girl Scouts," he said.
The children will also eventually have uniforms with sashes to hold their honors and awards. Those will be supplied by the church, Madden said. As of their next meeting, on Aug. 19, they will have T-shirts with the club's name on them to wear.
Coming in the near future will be a trip to Camp Kulaqua, the Seventh-day Adventist camp and retreat center in High Springs. Madden also intends to teach the children sailing and how to fly a model airplane.
"It's a good adventure for the children and brings out their individuality," Madden said. "We'll be looking to have a larger crowd and interesting things to do."