By LEIGH C. MERRIFIELD
News & Journal Editor
Recently, Ferguson Memorial Park has seen some improvements come about largely because of two young men who were in the process of trying to earn the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest achievement in the Boy Scouting program. Only four percent of Boy Scouts are granted this rank after a lengthy review process.
One of the requirements to attain this ranking is to perform a project that results in the betterment of community. It requires scouts to put their leadership training to good use and often teaches them new skills.
There is always room for improvements … and time often takes its toll on existing features that require maintenance and repairs as well. That is what has taken place at one of Ferguson Park’s older playgrounds – the one near the park’s entrance. Both of the young men contributing their time to these projects are members of Shinnston’s Boy Scout Troop #59.
Cody Collins is a 17-year Senior at Notre Dame High School who has spent six years in scouting. Cody consulted with Shinnston Community Development Director Reuben Perdue, looking for suggestions for projects needed within his community. From a list he was given, Cody chose as his project the addition of a wheelchair swing at the park’s lower playground.
Cody gathered his facts and figures and submitted paperwork which took a week or two for approval. Then he got to work with assistance from scouts in his own troop and well as another troop.
“Part of the requirements of an Eagle Project is to assume a leadership role; however I also participated in the work,” Cody explained. “With all of us working together, we accumulated about 20 working hours to complete the project. And then, following its completion, I had to summarize the work that was done and any problems that arose and how those problems were handled.”
He noted that there were a few problems, the biggest of which was to ensure that the swing was the right height, and it required them to dig out some of the ground so the chains would hang at the right level.
Shinnston resident Jennifer Waybright-Taylor is thrilled to have the wheelchair swing at the park near where she lives. In fact, she went before City Council to suggest that it be added to the playground. Now to have it come to fruition, Jennifer is delighted.
“I have always loved to swing and had one as a child. It broke my heart when I grew up and couldn’t fit in it any more, so this is a real blessing for me. I was there for the ribbon cutting and have already used it,” she stated. “I was glad that the City was very receptive when I presented the idea and I was pleased that Reuben Perdue had suggested this to the Boy Scouts as a possible project. They did an excellent job!”
Jennifer said a “perfect spot” was selected for the swing and it brought happy tears to her eyes to see it completed.
“It will be a benefit to me and other others in a wheelchair or those who use a scooter for mobility. Perhaps at some point, the City might consider adding a concrete base under the swing instead of mulch in the future which would make it a little more stable while getting in and out of the swing. But it’s a wonderful addition to our park!” she added.
Cody enjoyed working on the project that will be a benefit to his community. He says that although he has a few more merit badges to attain, having completed this Eagle Project is a major step for him.
“This is an example of how scouting involves so much more than learning wilderness skills. And, it’s not just about earning badges either. Scouting is an experience where you can learn new things in the modern world … how to handle finances … citizenship … and how to handle responsibility,” Cody explained. “Scouting teaches you how to grow up to be a man with admirable characteristics.”
Cody, whose father was a former scoutmaster of Troop 59, says his scouting days won’t end when he earns his Eagle Scout ranking. He would like to continue and mentor other young scouts as an assistant scoutmaster.
Jewel City Church donated $1,000 toward the project, and additional expenses were paid by the City of Shinnston.
Drew Mills is a 16-year old Junior at Lincoln High School. Although he has only been involved in scouting for four years, he is already working on an Eagle Scout project. He noted that earning badges doesn’t take all that long if you dedicate yourself to really working at them steadily.
Drew also consulted with Community Development Director Reuben Perdue to learn what needs the community had.
“Mr. Perdue have me a list of items I could choose from, and I chose to build new steps leading from the parking lot up to the lower playground near the park’s entrance,” he said. “I chose this project because it seemed to exhibit the greatest need so it would be an enormous benefit to those who use this playground. The steps were old and the wood had rotted. They were too far gone to be repaired and had become a safety issue, so I thought this was important. They were beyond repair, so I undertook building all new ones.”
He noted that his initial undertaking was to research how to build steps and plan out the procedure. He looked at many designs of sturdy stairs, took elements from all of those and made his own design.
He worked on the project himself but had help from his father and grandfather. “My function was to take the leadership role and lead them through my project, but it was nice to have them working with me because when there was an issue, they had prior experience and could advise me – while at the same time, allowing me to make the decisions on how best to solve the problem,” he continued.
Drew submitted his plans and had suggested using composite lumber; however his plans were altered and treated lumber was utilized to be more cost effective.
The three worked mainly during the evening hours and on weekends, accumulating a total of approximately 80 hours.
“The old steps were completely torn out and totally replaced along with handrails on both sides,” he added. “They should be much sturdier than what was there previously and they should last through the years.”
Drew stated that since becoming involved in scouting, he has held multiple leadership roles and has learned the value of teamwork.
“I have also learned that even leaders run into problems when tackling a project and that seeking guidance from others is the right thing to do in order to reach the most suitable outcome,” he said.
Drew admitted that when he entered scouting, learning how to pitch a tent and build a campfire were pretty important skills to learn. “But,” he added, “since then I’ve learned that scouting is about so much more. It’s about learning everyday life skills and learning to set goals and completing them.”
Now that his project is completed, Drew is one step closer to earning his Eagle Scout ranking.
“I would like to thank my father and grandfather, Jimmy and Brian Mills, Mr. Steve Pill, Mr. Reuben Perdue and Mayor Sammy DeMarco. I hope the City is pleased with the outcome and that they find it even more beneficial than what they expected,” Drew concluded.