Another garden grows, thanks to new Eagle Scout

For Eagle project, Austin Van Der Meulen builds community garden that will help the food pantry


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  • Austin Van Der Meulen (Photos provided)












  • Raised planting beds in bloom at the First Presbyterian Church's community garden, built by Austin Van Der Meulen and fellow scouts. (Photo by Ginny Privitar)



"I went to the church because they sponsor the troop and we meet in their basement. Since I was a member, who best to give back (to the church) than me."
Austin Van Der Meulen

By Ginny Privitar

— Austin Van Der Meulen, a member of the First Presbyterian Church in Chester, helped create beds for a community garden behind the church for his Eagle Scout project. The garden will not only benefit the community, but the food pantry as well.

Once the project was completed, it was turned over to the church. It is now available to anyone; just call Pastor Erin Moore at 469-4877 about planting in the raised beds.

Austin raised the necessary funds and organized his Troop 152 volunteers to help clean out and level the space as well as build the raised garden beds. The troop is sponsored by the church, and the Scoutmaster is Bill Murray. Just this past week, the Boy Scout Council approved his project, and Austin officially became an Eagle Scout.

Austin said planting has already taken place in the community garden, although it may take a year for the soil to completely settle. The Korean Methodist Church, which uses the premises, has done some planting as have the deacons from the Presbyterian Church.

"I went to the church because they sponsor the troop and we meet in their basement," he said. "Since I was a member, who best to give back (to the church) than me."

The buildings and grounds committee came up with idea, he said, but they were planning on seeking grant money. Austin volunteered to do it so the church could use the grant money for something else.

Team gets busyAustin and fellow Scouts built seven large boxes for the raised garden beds. Each is four by 12 feet and about 20 inches deep. Each box is sponsored by an individual group to grow vegetables. A portion of each harvest will be donated to the Presbyterian community food pantry, so its clients will be able to get fresh vegetables.

First, Austin had to create a workbook detailing the project and seek approval. He credits Dan Poganski, Troop treasurer, for helping him with the workbook and design for the garden boxes.

Once the project was approved, Austin went to different business soliciting funds. He raised money during a roast beef dinner and by means of a special collection at the church.

Austin spoke to Arnold Bieling, of Roe Brothers Lumber, in the Village of Florida, who gave him discounted pressure-treated wood. In all, about $1,000 worth of lumber was purchased. Lowe's gave him 50 percent off on fasteners.

Finally, Austin purchased $250 worth of discounted topsoil from Paul Richardson of Diamond Landscaping.

Austin, fellow Scouts, friends and his dad, Matt, spent two weekends building the boxes on site, leveling them and filling each with topsoil.

Off to GeneseoAustin was involved in community service as a member of the Kiwanis Key Club. He was recently honored by the Chester Alumni Association and received their Descendant Award. He is the fourth generation of his family to graduate from Chester High School.

Austin will be going off to SUNY Geneseo soon, and plans to double major in philosophy and math, with a minor in legal studies. When he returns home on break, he will have his actual Eagle award ceremony in December.

Austin thanks everyone who helped make the project a reality.

Well done, Austin!





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