Ashley Orehek, of Troop 71558, achieved the highest ranking in Girl Scouting — the Gold Award — by not giving up on her hometown.
Orehek, 18, a freshman at Millersville University and Ambler Borough native, was honored last week by Ambler Borough Council not just for her achivement, but for aiding the Mattie N. Dixon Community Cupboard and establishing a collection for needy families in the area through her church's youth group.
Mayor Bud Wahl honored Orehek with a proclamation for the Gold Award last week, which recognized Orehek for inspiring her peers "with the ideals of character, conduct, patriotism and service" and for taking "the faithful and steady path" within the organization.
"The purpose of the Girl Scouts of America ... is to build courage, confidence and character to make the world a better place," Wahl said.
Changing the world doesn't happen overnight, but Orehek is starting small.
Orehek was able to change lives of clients of the Ambler nonprofit by investing more than 70 hours and organizing volunteers to donate another 55 hours through St. Anthony Youth, the youth ministry at St. Anthony of Padua Parish on Forest Avenue.
All in all, more than 600 canned foods, clothing and more were donated to Mattie N. Dixon Community Cupboard.
The 2012 Wissahickon High School graduate and Millersville meteorology major became inspired for her service project by the 30 Hour Famine by World Vision. The 30 Hour Famine is a program where volunteers raise funds and awareness, or participate in a 30-hour fasting over a weekend.
Orehek participated in such an event recently — "I fell in love with it. It was very moving," she said — and decided she had to do more.
"The food drive was one component," Orehek said. "The main component was initiating a program at St. Anthony of Padua in Ambler. They don't have many programs or events for high school parishioners. For anyone above eighth grade, there's nothing. I wanted to bring something in."
Through St. Anthony Youth, or StAY, Orehek organized collection of items for the cupboard on Ambler's Main Street.
"I contacted the director, Christine Bouley, and asked her what they needed. They suffer in the spring, and lack donations after Christmas," Orehek said. "Easter is a pretty important holiday, so I thought families should have support through the Easter season."
Orehek officially received her Gold Award in April 2012 at a ceremony in Philadelphia.
While she is officially done with Girl Scouting, Orehek wants to continue on inspiring others to change their towns — and, maybe one day, the world.
"Maybe I'll become a volunteer," she said. "I want to help the town here I grew up in."