Parkway United Church of Christ is now ready to take action if someone in the building shows signs of a heart attack. Through the North Carolina Council of Churches' Strive to Revive program, the Winston-Salem congregation qualified for a free automated external defibrillator (AED) and CPR training, and the Rev. Craig Schaub made sure his church took advantage of the opportunity.
"This will provide a sense of security if someone were to have a cardiac incident whether during worship or during any other event in the building," said Schaub, noting that the building is often used by other groups within the community. "We can respond quickly and effectively."
An AED is a portable electronic device used to restore normal heart rhythms in cardiac arrest victims. When administered within three minutes of an event, survival rates can be as high as 74 percent, according to the NCCC.
"There is a microcosm of all the at-risk populations – African Americans, Latinos, women and the elderly – at places of worship all across the state," said Willona Stallings, program coordinator of the NCCC's Partners in Health and Wholeness program. "We are simply trying to preserve the lives of God's people and all North Carolinians."
The program was originally an idea of the insurance group Blue Cross Blue Shield, which proposed a partnership with the NCCC to implement the program in churches, and with the Red Cross to supply training and certification. Schaub learned about the program through an NCCC newsletter late last year, and began taking the necessary steps to qualify.
One of the primary requirements is for the congregation to serve a large proportion of at-risk populations. Congregations must also have a demonstrated need, such as having limited financial resources or frequent use of church facilities, and they are encouraged to achieve bronze-, silver- or gold-level health certification from the NCCC's Partners in Health and Wholeness initiative.
After meeting the first two requirements, Parkway UCC worked to achieve silver status in the points-based PHW program by doing things like offering blood pressure screenings and group exercise opportunities, incorporating health and wellness topics into worship, and having a certain number of registered nurses in the congregation.
"We strive to be healthcare advocates for one another and our family members," said Schaub. "This is all part of a wider effort in the congregation to think about health and wellness."
The NCCC awarded 35 grants this summer to congregations like Parkway UCC that surpassed the requirements, and have since opened up the program statewide. Stallings said they have received 100 additional applications so far, with a deadline of Monday Sept. 17. The plan is to award AED grants to 150 congregations over the next three years. The program has garnered attention, and Stallings has received calls from congregation leaders in other states expressing interest in having a similar program made available for them.
Schaub learned in May that Parkway UCC received a grant, and the church received its AED in mid-August. Three congregation members also received CPR training from the Red Cross this summer. The NCCC grant provides the AED and the CPR training free of charge, and the church paid for CPR training for two additional members, at a cost of about $90. Schaub plans to get a few more people CPR certified within the next few months and to continue his congregation on the path to health and wellness.
"We have our folks trained, we're ready to go," said Schaub. "Now hopefully we never have to use it."