COLUMN: Projects show true community spirit

By EMILY SPARACINO / Staff Writer

High school can be a hectic time for students as they juggle academics, extracurricular activities and preparations for life beyond the 12th grade.

Knowing how busy these formative years are for teenagers makes their personal accomplishments even more impressive, especially as they relate to bettering their communities.

We have received and shared news from multiple Scout troops lately of Shelby County residents completing projects in their quests to earn the prestigious rank of Eagle Scout.

The projects are notable for many reasons, including the time, thoughtfulness and ingenuity these students poured into each one from start to finish.

Chelsea High School senior Cade Bailey, for instance, decided he wanted his project to help children and families coping with food insecurity.

“Whenever I was in middle school, I was a Peer Helper, and we worked with Backpack Buddies,” Bailey said in an August interview. “I didn’t realize how many kids in the area were struggling with food insecurities. It stuck with me until high school, and I realized I need to do something about this.”

Bailey built a wooden box, called a “Blessing Box,” and installed it on the grounds of Lesters Chapel United Methodist Church in Columbiana.

The box is stocked with donated canned food items that are free and available to anyone in need at any time.

Not only did Bailey plan and execute the project, but he gave a detailed presentation to members of the church regarding his plans for the Blessing Box.

Helena High School Junior Jacob Strickland completed a project designed to improve Joe Tucker Park for residents and wildlife.

Strickland’s goals for the project were to provide information to citizens visiting the park and to create a solution to the problem of fishing line being left on the ground.

He constructed an information kiosk covering topics such as wildlife that might be found in the area, fishing laws and license requirements, resources to report injured animals and information for those who come to walk the park for exercise.

For the other part of the project, Strickland constructed four fishing line receptacles to encourage guests to properly dispose of their line.

And Matthew David Coby, a member of Troop 533 chartered by Oak Mountain Presbyterian Church and under the leadership of Scoutmaster Mark Clark, built and installed five wooden benches and a lattice privacy screen around an HVAC unit next to the Oak Mountain Middle School gymnasium.

Coby said it felt great to give back to the school where he attended, expressing gratitude to his fellow troop members and family members for their support of the project.

“I’m really glad Mr. (Larry) Haynes reached out and offered the project to me,” Coby said. “I learned lessons that I’m going to take with me for the rest of my life, and that’s something that you don’t get every day.”

Projects like these have lasting benefits for the communities in which they were carried out, and the students who painstakingly planned and executed them should be commended for their work and generosity.