By TONY GUERRERO
A Senior Girl Scout from Hays has been honored with the Girl Scout Gold Award for her efforts in enhancing accessibility and preserving the Bunker Hill Museum.
The Gold Award is the highest in Girl Scouting and equivalent to a Boy Scout Eagle Award.
The Bunker Hill Museum is in the former Mt. Zion Lutheran Church, a native limestone building that was built in 1881.
The establishment was in need of a handicapped-accessible ramp and a secure handrail at the entrance.
Mariella Dreiling from Hays Troop 10095 undertook the project in her pursuit of the Girl Scout Gold Award.
The museum hosts an extensive collection of family histories, offering valuable information for those researching ancestors within the Bunker Hill area.
"I know a lot of families in the community that have artifacts and records there, and mine does too," Dreiling said. " I thought it was really important to keep this history alive for the future generations."
Dreiling mentioned that a stack of newspapers dating from the 1880s to the 1930s was discovered, left unprotected and disorganized due to faded labels throughout the exhibit.
"One of the bigger things was relabeling all of the items because the labels before were handwritten and fading. We laminated and typed new labels for every item in the museum, then we also cleaned everything and moved stuff around to make it visible," she said.
The museum also contains various artifacts originating from the Bunker Hill region.
"One of the most interesting things that I saw there is an old German Bible so we made a new display for it and some other Bibles," Dreiling said.
Additional efforts to organize and clean the museum involved repainting, upgrading glass tops for displays, preserving documents in storage containers, and reframing pins and medals from the Grand Army of the Republic.
Before achieving her Girl Scout Gold Award earlier this year, Reiling received the Girl Scout Silver Award—the second-highest honor for girls in Scouting—for her contributions at the Dubuque Immanuel Lutheran Cemetery.
Reiling described the headstones at the cemetery as deteriorated and broken down due to their old age, making it difficult to read. Taking initiative, she undertook the task of documenting the burials at the site.
"I thought it'd be a good idea to catalog everyone that was buried there so in the future, you could see who's buried there if the headstones fade away," she said.
Throughout the extensive process of researching and inputting complete family records into a database, Dreiling uncovered the depth of her family lineage through the Dubuque cemetery.
"We found that we had a lot of family members out there, and we did not realize it. I found my sixth great-grandmother. She was one of the first people buried there, and I had never known that," Dreiling said.
Dreiling's exploration of family records at the age of 13, involved delving into online resources and deciphering old German handwriting from the 1800s.
A vinyl map with a comprehensive list of everyone buried in the cemetery was crafted to aid visitors or relatives in locating their loved ones.
Dreiling contributed a concise directory to the Bunker Hill Historical Society Museum and added the information to the Find A Grave website.
The museum's hand-cut limestone blocks, sourced from quarries near Bunker Hill, serve as a reminder of the founding fathers' utilization of natural resources to establish this region.
Going on to attain her Girl Scout Gold Award, Dreiling gained insights from her project focused on preserving historical artifacts at the Bunker Hill Museum.
"I learned a lot about how to preserve artifacts, keeping them safe and away from humidity and sunlight," she said.
Challenges Dreiling faced along the way included harsh weather during the construction of the ramp, but she was nevertheless determined to finish the project.
Several returning visitors to the museum noted the refreshed and inviting atmosphere, expressing optimism about the ease of researching family history.
Funding for the projects came from multiple grants, including a $1,200 Dane Hansen Community Grant for the construction of the ramp and rail.
Additionally, a $500 Midwest Energy grant supported the effort of storage containers for newspaper collections, binders for local family histories and supplies for labeling museum artifacts.
Dreiling acknowledges her father Myron Dreiling, her mother Monica Dreiling, her grandfather Ryan Cook and the board of directors at the Bunker Hill Museum.
The Bunker Hill Museum is open from 1 to 4 p.m. on Sundays.