While he first tried his hand at woodworking at the ripe old age of 6, St. Mary's freshman Brady Eiler has recently branched out to create some much-needed cabinetry for St. Vincent de Paul as part of earning his Eagle Scout rank.
The 15-year-old said he wanted to find a project that would fill a need for people in his community.
The Jacksonville resident recruited his uncle, who works in the lumber industry, and former St. Vincent de Paul president Len Hebert.
One of the agency's biggest needs, Brady learned, was for some solid cabinetry to store personal belongings of homeless people who receive services at St. Vincent's dining hall and nearby thrift store.
"St. Vincent's needed two cabinets and said I could do either one of the two. I decided to do both of them since they really needed them," Brady said, noting that the project, which he juggled along with school and sports, took four months from design to delivery.
With help from fellow Scouts, Eiler designed the cabinets, planned his supplies, funded the project and set to work.
He admits he's had a knack for working with wood for as long as he can remember.
"I liked big machines and using tools, so I wanted to learn. The first thing I built was a tiny little desk for my mom for Mother's Day," he said.
To complete an Eagle Scout project, something accomplished by about 6 percent of Boy Scouts, community connection is a key factor. Brady said he wanted to answer a need for people in the community who have very little.
Hebert said the boy's hard work and focus were impressive.
"We were really, really pleased that he picked us to do his project. The two cabinets he made are really nice-looking cabinets and very functional," Hebert said.
"He made one for the dining room where we keep things that we give away for people who come in six days a week who are hungry. It might be shoes or coats that have been donated. The second cabinet in the thrift store provides us with a place for people who come in, who are typically homeless, and need somewhere to put their backpack down while they're in the store."
Hebert said Eiler displayed great attention to detail.
"The cabinets are well designed and of a high quality of work," he noted.
In recognition of his project and for meeting the requirements for his Eagle Scout badge, Eiler was honored recently during a "court of honor" ceremony.
While most Eagle Scouts typically earn their rank toward the end of high school, the teen said he is happy to have completed his own and looks forward to helping others do so.
Part of a generation where smartphones and computer games often outrank hands-on projects, Eiler said he was proud of his Boy Scout affiliation.
"Being able to do this project and help people in need made me really happy. It was something that made St. Vincent's better able to do the things that they do, and my cabinets will always be a part of that place for people to see," he said.
"I've been in Scouts for four years ... and for me it's been like a rite of passage to earn my Eagle. A lot of countries have rights of passage for young men, but in America we don't really have that. An Eagle Scout recognition is part of becoming a young man and doing the right thing as you grow into adulthood.
"I just think it's a really cool way to be part of something bigger and to do some good."
— Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at firstname.lastname@example.org.