Montana Wisnewski will turn an alarming event into a proactive emergency preparedness model as she works towards earning the highest Girl Scouting honor: The Girl Scout Gold Award.
A lifelong Girl Scout in Hurdle Mills, Wisnewski always figured she would one day have the chance to earn this prestigious award, she just didn’t know what her project was going to be.
After an incident at her church in which her mother had to perform CPR to save someone's life, Wisnewski saw the need for an emergency response plan for her church.
Without an AED and a set plan of action, Wisnewski saw the vital need for a known plan of action in her church, Holy Family Catholic Church in Hillsborough. She also found it likely that other churches needed assistance in creating similar medical emergency plans.
“I realized that this is dangerous, we need something,” she said. “I was looking for a project and it kind of fell right into my lap. I was like, ‘This is something I can do and it is something I want to do.’”
In April, Wisnewski submitted her application to the Girl Scouts Coastal Pines Council, which oversees scouts from the Piedmont to the coast. Soon thereafter, she was approved and began work in mid-July. With 80 hours of leadership hours to complete and over $1,000 to fundraise, Wisnewski aims to complete her project by May 2019 and formally present it to the Girl Scout Council.
12 years of Girl Scouts
Before Wisnewski was a Daisy, the entry level into Girl Scouting, she already knew she would one day be a Girl Scout just like her older sisters. Her mother was their troop leader and Wisnewski would often tag along to regular meetings and events.
Now, after 12 years as an official Girl Scout, Wisnewski is a senior in high school and a Girl Scout Ambassador, the highest level in Girl Scouting.
She has chronicled all the steps of a successful Girl Scout – high cookie sales, numerous events and international journeys, and in 8th grade, as a Girl Scout Cadette, Wisnewski earned the Girl Scout Silver Award. This award, the second highest award a Girl Scout can receive, requires a minimum of 50 service hours and giving back to the community.
Wisnewski spent her time regenerating a garden for the Presbyterian Home of Hawfields, a retirement facility in Mebane. Along with two other Girl Scouts, she removed withered and overgrown plants and replaced them with new flowers and vegetables. They also re-stained some raised flower beds.
Now, in process to earn her Girl Scout Gold Award, she hopes to leave an even larger lasting impression on the safety of churches in the area.
Going for Girl Scout Gold
Her Girl Scout Gold Award project will consist of purchasing one, if not two, AEDs, and begin an emergency action team for her church. This team will be trained and prepared to take organized action in case of emergency, following a plan created by the team and local fire department representatives specific to their building and needs.
Wisnewski will also organize Red Cross, first-aid, and CPR classes for the members of her parish who choose to attend.
She hopes this project will be sustainable even after her project is completed.
“[The project] has to be bigger than yourself, it has to affect the community and hopefully beyond,” Wisnewski said.
Her adviser, Linda LaClair, a parishioner and family friend, will assist Wisnewski along the way if she needs guidance and to help communicate with the Girl Scout Council. LaClair is also a lifetime Girl Scout and her oldest daughter earned the Girl Scout Gold Award in 1993.
Starting with her church, Wisnewski hopes this emergency preparedness model will grows across Hillsborough and the diocese of Raleigh.
AEDs, or an automated external defibrillators that can assist those having sudden cardiac arrest by sending a shock to the heart to restore a normal rhythm, cost over $1,000.
Wisnewski has spent about 20 hours on the project thus far, researching the best AED for their situation. She has contacted multiple companies, spoke with medical representatives, and emailed with professionals about proper equipment to keep at the church. She has also presented a few AED choices to her parish.
Though the project is researching and educating members of her parish, a significant amount of time will be spent collecting donations. Wisnewski looks to raise $1,600.
Collecting donations and 'gifts in kind' has been a positive partnership with the Knights of Columbus Council # 9549 at her church. They have raised $1,000 to date through their pancake breakfasts and raffle. Continued donations to the Knights of Columbus are welcomed in order to collect the entire funds for the medical equipment.