The Indian Mills Fire Company has ensured that Shamong Township Girl Scouts Troop No. 24709 received proper training and certification from the Red Cross to babysit siblings and family friends.
Troop Leader Mindy McKeown said that while the certification course can be done through the Girl Scouts of South Jersey in Cherry Hill, it costs $90 per child and lessons were cancelled in March when COVID-19 hit New Jersey.
Deputy Fire Chief Joe Everman, whose daughter Kaliegh is in the troop, approached McKeown and offered his expertise and the firehouse to teach the girls about babysitting.
“I wanted to do it for my daughter and her troop, and it gets the squad more involved with the community,” he expressed. “If we’re more involved with the community, we have a better chance of getting more volunteers. That’s my ‘payout.’ If I can get that.”
Everman’s certification in the American Red Cross allowed him to teach the course and later test the Scouts on their knowledge. They must pass a written test to receive their certificates from the Red Cross. Classes on the humanitarian organization’s website — RedCross.org — range from $35 to $45 per person. Everman teaches the course for free.
Certifications are good for two years, after which the girls can get recertified or earn a higher-tiered certification.
The courses, taught for three hours on Aug. 23 and 30 at the firehouse, equipped the Scouts with knowledge on how to administer CPR or the Heimlich maneuver to a child, what foods are nutrient dense and safe for small children to eat and how to market oneself to families. The girls also got an introduction to medicine that could inspire them to have medical careers in the future.
“They were working on how to put a resume together, what information you should have on there,” McKeown explained. “When you go to speak to someone you want to employ you, what do you say (to them)? What are the skills you want to convey to them?”
She recalled a training video that depicted a babysitter getting interrupted by a child who refused to go to sleep. The girls were then taught to engage in mindless activities with the child that would help him or her fall asleep quicker.
But not all concepts were easy for the troop to grasp. Vocabulary was a barrier for McKeown’s daughter, Melina, who didn’t understand what it meant for a kid to be in shock. The mother had to explain what shock meant and how a sitter should respond.
The McKeowns live in a large neighborhood in Shamong with three other troop families, while Everman’s family is in a smaller development with very few family groups. So the Red Cross has included videos and PowerPoints on how the girls can get to know more families and spread word of their babysitting services.
According to McKeown, the scouts learned how to review a customer’s home and determine if it is safe to work in and what to do if it isn’t, such as calling parents or declining a job offer. She will also consider having the preteens pack a first aid or babysitting kit (with food, bandages, blanket, etc.) for camping or hiking trips.
Everman is willing to teach Scouts in neighboring towns about the babysitting course at the firehouse.
“If you’re out and there’s something going on, it’s so much better to have someone who could help another person in a random situation,” McKeown advised.
“I am certified and scared to death and hope I never have to do it; let’s just say if I was at Wawa and someone needed CPR, I can jump up and give them the Heimlich.”