By Medea Giordano
Originally published in The Amityville Record
June 1, 2016
Boy and girl scouts have been contributing to the beauty of Sophia Garden in Amityville for years. When Boy Scout Justin Elkin needed a project to reach Eagle Scout status, something that only about five percent of scouts do, according to the National Eagle Scout Association, he knew he wanted to build a utility pavilion for the garden.
Located on Homecoming Farm at The Sisters of St. Dominic, the organic garden donates 20 percent of the food grown to the Interfaith Nutrition Network.
After more than a year of planning and raising $2,000 Justin started the project Sat., April 23, together with members of Boy Scout Troop 689. The group excavated the site for the utility pavilion—a covered area with a washing station for fruits and vegetables.
“It’s taken a good year of fundraising,” Justin said, “but now we’re finally here.”
“Justin is the project manager; he has to tell the adults what to do,” said Assistant Scoutmaster Marc Elkin, Justin’s father. “He’s learning leadership and how to troubleshoot.”
While it was up to Justin to plan, organize and raise money for his project, fellow boy scouts and their families were willing to help.
“It’s a whole troop effort,” Justin said.
Elizabeth Keihm, executive director and farmer of Homecoming Farm, is appreciative of what the Scouts have contributed over the years.
“Scout programs have been amazing for us…both boy and girl scouts,” Keihm said. “This young man came to us and I said we’d like a new wash station, and then I got this professional level blueprint from Justin.”
After excavation is complete, a concrete foundation will be poured and then Justin and his fellow scouts will start building the actual 10-foot by 20-foot wooden structure, which in addition to providing a place to wash food, will provide protection from hot sun and rain during harvesting.
“We’re making it big enough so that they can set up a table and chairs when they have outdoor events,” Elkin added.
In addition to the utility pavilion currently being built, part of Sophia Garden is being leveled to provide wheelchair access to the site. Many of the residents at Dominican Village, a senior residential home there will then be able to go to the garden.
Andrew Dittman, who was helping Justin out with his project, contributed to the garden in 2014 for his own Eagle Scout project, which included building the potting benches that will be accessible to residents once the ground is leveled.
“At the end, I get to have been a part of their lives for a short period that has significance for the rest of their lives. It’s a great honor,” Keihm said.