Eight members of South Florida’s Boy Scout Troop 457 were recently promoted to the rank of Eagle Scout, the organization’s highest rank, in a court of honor ceremony at Kendall United Methodist Church.
Among those attending the ceremony were Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Palmetto Bay Mayor Shelly Stanczyk, Pinecrest councilmember James McDonald and county court judge William Altfield.
Each scout was required to complete an individual Eagle Scout service project and, in total, their combined efforts resulted in more than 4,300 volunteer hours with approximately 615 volunteers.
“These are all just amazing projects, and they made a phenomenal impact on both their lives and the community,” said committee chairwoman and counselor to Eagle Scout candidates Julie Ziska, who has dedicated a combined 63 years to the group with her scoutmaster husband David. “It was kind of overwhelming in terms of how much they had to do, yet it is so empowering and gratifying to realize that they’ve done this huge thing and that so many people came together to help them get it done.”
Scout Brian Bibb’s project involved refurbishing the social hall of the church where his promotion later took place. He led a group of 95 volunteers in replacing the existing carpet with tile, installing baseboards and repainting, as well as installing a drainage field in the church preschool, replacing outside benches and beautifying outside areas. Atotal of 951 combined volunteer hours were contributed and more than two months of preparatory and post-project work was required. A jazz saxophone player, he intends to study music in college.
“My project has taught me many valuable lessons, especially about being a leader, and I will certainly use the knowledge that I have gained from my project for the rest of my life,” he said.
The South Florida Wildlife Rehabilitation Center benefitted from the hard work of Gregory Boldt, who cleared a pond and repaired its fountain, repaired a fence surrounding it, fixed another fence by first removing surrounding overgrowth, and replaced landscape timbers, coating the path with pea rock. A total of 104 people contributed more than 800 combined hours. Enrolled in his school’s engineering program, Boldt plans to continue his studies in college.
“Doing this project taught me a lot in how to plan and execute an idea, and about leadership,” he said.
Dylan Franz’s project involved restoring and beautifying the Hammock in East Ridge, a retirement community in Cutler Bay. With the help of 72 volunteers, he cleared and mulched a 200-foot trail, resurrected a fallen meditation cross, assembled concrete tables and benches, built an archway and bat house, and installed a coded pedestrian gate for easier residential access. Ajunior in high school, he is in the robotics program.
“The project was a huge success and I hope my contributions will be appreciated for years to come,” Franz said. U.S. Naval Academy hopeful and engineering magnet program student Glenn “Spencer” Grant chose Florida Baptist Children’s Home, a safe haven for at-risk youths, as his project site. With the assistance of 103 volunteers donating 653 combined hours, he rehabbed a meditation garden with native plants and pine bark mulch, beautified the surrounding landscape; assembled, stained and installed three picnic tables and constructed a new wooden deck with an integrated bench. The project wasn’t without its difficulties.
“The lumber almost fell out of the truck and onto Kendall Drive during rush hour while being transported from the home supply store to the project site,” Grant said.
Scout John Wesley Groves II performed his scout leadership service project at Montgomery Botanical Center. Seventy volunteers contributed more than 400 community service hours in helping him manually haul 2,000 cubic feet of base layer and gravel for the foundation and flooring of a new greenhouse. A chess and bowling enthusiast, he intends on pursuing an engineering degree in college.
“Overseeing the early stage of building the greenhouse definitely interested my engineering side and it taught me a lot about how to plan a big project out, step by step, and how to lead and motivate people,” Groves said.
A month earlier, fellow Scout Patrick Guilford executed his project in the same place as Groves, removing the previous building from the greenhouse site. The shade house he was tasked with removing was made up of steel pipes, chain link fences, screen material and PVC irrigation, all carefully disassembled for future use elsewhere in Montgomery. Afterwards, the site was cleared of all debris and the ground was leveled for construction. More than 60 volunteers offered 400 service hours in helping him complete his task.
Guilford has recently enrolled in Savannah College of Art and Design where he wants to major in animation and film. “The project taught me a lot about leadership, and that listening to and helping others is an important part of leadership,” he said.
Nicholas Moreno, who will attend the University of Florida in pursuit of a degree in mechanical engineering, conducted his project for the Caring for Miami Ministry, which provides special services for farm workers of the Redlands area, including free tutoring for children, computer classes and English lessons. Moreno led more than 40 volunteers over a combined 220 hours in resurfacing an old playground, repairing a volleyball net, building a pair of picnic tables and mulching trees around the area, all while enduring an inconvenient spate of downpours.
“Since I’ve volunteered for the ministry over the past few years, I decided it was the perfect place for my project,” he said.“I was incredibly proud of the work I had accomplished, knowing the result would last for a very long time.”
Finally, Hugo Trier earned the rank of Eagle Scout by assembling 70 volunteers who gave more than 381 hours of work at Palmetto Elementary School. They landscaped the area outside the media center, restored game areas around the playground, repaired some uneven and damaged pavers, manicured a small memorial garden and installed 80 native South Florida plants. Some of the plants are endangered or threatened species, giving the school a special role in their protection and cultivation. After finishing high school, Trier would like to study marine conservation in college.
“I was very nervous about how everything would go, but I am really happy with the results and so is the school,” he said. Over the years, Troop 457 has helped 259 scouts advance to the rank of Eagle Scout.
To attain that title is a remarkable and admirable accomplishment, and it speaks volumes of their perseverant attitudes.
“We are very proud of these eight fine young men who have achieved something that only four out of 100 Boy Scouts ever do,” said scoutmaster Ziska. “They have shown a persistence that is unique and there is no question in my mind that they will achieve any goal they set for themselves in the future.”
For information, visit online at www.bsatroop457.org or www.palmettobay-fl.gov/content/boy-scout-troop-457