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Donation helps village prepare for disaster

Village President Neil Palmer accepts a donation from Elm Grove Junior Guild members Katy Matola and Mindy Harmelink.

Village President Neil Palmer accepts a donation from Elm Grove Junior Guild members Katy Matola and Mindy Harmelink.

Jan. 29, 2014

An $11,000 donation from the Elm Grove Junior Guild will help the village's Emergency Medical Services team respond promptly and actively in the case of a violent event. The money will be used to outfit responders with ballistic vests and helmets, rescue gear and specialized medical equipment.

The EMS department had the equipment on its wish list of supplies that did not fit in the village's budget.

"Because of the recent events with school shootings and the increased amount of violence, to have our EMS and police departments trained to give the best service to victims, we found, would be really important to have for our community," Katie Matola, vice president of grants for the Junior Guild, said.

The Guild, made up of about 80 female residents of Elm Grove, raised more money than ever before this year, at more than $65,000. The members decided to give about $14,350 of that to the village, in a check presented at the Village Board meeting Tuesday.

Looking to save lives

Elm Grove Tactical EMS Coordinator John Schindler said the equipment could save lives if a violent event occurs. In the past, EMS would have had to set up several blocks away, waiting for law enforcement officers to declare the scene safe before the team could enter and care for victims.

"In the meantime, many victims who could have possibly been saved were dying," Schindler said. "As we like to say, telling someone who has been shot, 'Don't worry, help is on the way,' is not rendering medical care."

Schindler said in the past decade, departments nationwide have been working to have EMS operators entering scenes before they are safe, in order to get medical care to victims immediately.

"As we've seen, these violent incidents are becoming more and more common in schools, malls, movie theaters and many other places we used to think of as safe places to go," Schindler said. "From the EMS and law enforcement perspective, we needed a complete change in mind-set and tactics."

The vests and helmets will protect several paramedics in Elm Grove who have already been approved by the state for tactical training. While shootings are one of the greatest fears, the equipment can also be used in smaller-scale situations.

"It can be a traffic stop that becomes violent, a domestic incident or even an explosion where the cause is unknown and could have been a bomb or just natural gas," Schindler said.

Other giving

With more than $3,000 left for village initiatives after funding EMS equipment, the Guild also gave to many of its annual projects, including contributing to the D.A.R.E. program for fifth-graders, stocking the village pond with fish and sponsoring a concert in the park.

The group also gave $1,300 for a Turk Rescue System for the Fire Department, which helps firefighters move ladders and baskets quickly and safely during rescues.

After funding village projects, the Junior Guild plans to give more than $50,000 to organizations in Milwaukee and Waukesha counties that help women and children. In the past, the group has donated to groups like College Possible, the Davidson Yell & Tell Foundation and Family Services of Waukesha County.

The Guild will choose which organizations to donate to this year at its meeting Feb. 4. It has 16 finalists, out of 24 applicants.

The donation money comes largely from the group's annual April auction, The Tree of Giving Gala, with the help of many local sponsors like Divine Consign, Thrivent Financial, Master Lock and Uptown Automotive Group.

"The auctions are getting bigger and better; it's so nice to have such a great chunk to donate," Guild President Belinda Russell said. "We're really proud of everything we're able to do for the community."

The membership and reach of the Guild continue to grow. In addition to its grants, the group organizes several community events, from the Memorial Day Parade to breakfast with Santa.

"When I first joined, I had no idea what to expect," Matola said. "With the friendships I've developed and the service given to this community, it's just amazing."

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