As a sixth grader, Billy Eby didn’t know what to expect when a few years ago he started volunteering with his mom, Don Eby, at the Between Friends food pantry in Sugar Grove.
Today, the food pantry has become much more functional after a 17-year-old Sugar Grove resident built special shelves for his Eagle Scout project that allow fellow volunteers to organize pre-filled boxes for distribution, as well as display certain products.
“Doing something for the food pantry and seeing how it helps people is really cool and it makes you feel good,” he said. “They’ve only had the shelving for a few months, but it’s something that will be useful in the future as well, so I can see the benefits. I think doing something for an organization that I know helps a lot of people is a great opportunity and not all Scouts can do it. I was able to do something for an organization that has a special place in my heart.”
Abi, a member of Sugar Grove Boy Scout Troop 41, was taught to help others at an early age. This is a message from his parents and from the many years he has spent in Scouting.
“Naturally, when my mother brought me to volunteer in the food pantry, I had a good experience of helping people, and I also did it in the Hesed house,” he said. “So when it came time for my Eagle project, I spoke to (the pantry operations manager) and she had some ideas about what they could use best.”
Admitting he has little experience in woodworking, Eby did a lot of research before getting into shelving, including picking the brains of general contractor Dustin Hawkins, owner of the DK Hawkins Group.
“While I didn’t have a lot of experience, I was able to make it through my research and talking to the general contractor,” Eby said. “I talked to him a lot to see if he thought it would be a good structure to build. We were also able to borrow a pickup trailer and some power tools which worked very well.”
Fittingly, the Ebi project, which literally helps countless customers get emergency and extra meals every Thursday, has also benefited from the help of others.
“Lumber was expensive, especially plywood during COVID,” he said. “That was one of the problems I ran into, but fortunately I have a leader in the squad, Mrs. White. [Nancy] Loess, who works for Sierra Forest Products, and they donated plywood so we can build a first class shelving unit.”
Thanks to the efforts and generosity of Sierra Forest Products partners Alex Early, Shailene Thomas, and division manager Joe Ventimiglia, who approved the donation, Aby estimates he received about $500 worth of plywood from Sierra and purchased the remaining materials from Home Depot.
The project took quite a long time to complete, according to Abi’s calculations, about 250 hours.
“While I spent a lot of time, it was only a fraction of the total time the volunteers spent,” he said. “I really appreciate everyone who helped. The help of all leaders and adults and having supportive parents was extremely important.”
Shelves were built on the driveway to Abi’s house. He led his team to build and paint them before they were moved and installed in the food pantry.
“The construction part started slowly, but we got it right, and I had a lot of volunteer scouts and adults helping me,” he said. “One of the most important parts of the Eagle project is that you have to lead, not just do all the work. You have to delegate the work to adults who may know a lot more about woodworking and painting before you do so, so it’s kind of a learning experience.”
The Eagle Project is comparable to a final exam as it requires a lot of upfront work, including community service requirements and nearly two dozen merit badges, to achieve Eagle Scout Ranking.
“It took a lot of time,” Abi said. “You have to talk to the board about your proposal, write a plan and report, and then meet with them about your project to see if you can do it. You have to earn 20+ merit badges and promotions, so it’s a consistent achievement over a long period of time to get to this point.”
Ebi got there about six years after his first scouting trip.
“I remember my first camp and that was before I said some of the basic Scout oaths and Scout laws, and now I have an Eagle Scout, so it’s been a long journey,” he said. “I spent a lot of time on this. I am now Senior Patrol Leader, which is the highest position you can hold, as Scout meetings are led by Scouts.
He also served as assistant patrol leader, seabass adventure team leader, chaplain’s assistant, and northern adventure level chaplain’s assistant.
“I was able to work with a lot of people my age, but I also worked with Scouts who had just graduated from elementary school and had just moved into sixth grade, so it was interesting to meet people of different ages,” he said. . “When I was younger, I met older scouts who are now in college. Interesting people you meet in Scouts. There are many good people.”
Abby is definitely one of them.
“He’s the kind of guy who always looks after the younger ones, someone he can mentor,” his mother said. “This year he was a mentor at Marmion as a high school student for some of the younger kids and he helped teach some of the kids in the math squad.”
His aunt, Elizabeth Hippman, said it was not surprising that he chose a food pantry project that would continue to benefit the community for years to come.
“Billy is a very dedicated and selfless young man whose compassion for people and helping others is the essence of who he is,” she said. “He is a very intelligent and ambitious leader whose character will follow him through life.”
This summer, Abi is heading to the West Virginia Summit for his third High Adventure Program, which will earn him the Triple Crown National Adventure Award for participating in one High Adventure Qualifying Program in the three Boy Scouts of America National Adventure Games. bases.
He will return to Marmion this fall for his senior year before heading to a school yet to be determined, likely to study engineering.
“Perhaps I will go into mechanical engineering or aerospace,” he said. “I kind of thought about getting an MBA, but who knows? I could get a master’s degree in engineering, an MBA, or go the other way. I do not know exactly. I have some time before making these decisions.”