Building a pathway at St. Francis Church in Phelps was not exactly a walk in the park for Justin Drew, 15. As part of his Eagle Scout project, Justin and a crew of fellow Boy Scouts, friends and family members recently laid an 85-foot brick pathway from the church’s side door to the front sidewalk.
Justin lives in Farmington, but his mother, Judy Gilotte-Drew, is originally from Phelps and belonged to St. Francis Parish while she was growing up. In early spring, Justin was contemplating ideas for his Eagle Scout project when his mother recalled hearing that the parish was hoping to beautify its grounds and was looking for help with the project.
Justin then met with Sister of St. Joseph Joan Sobala, the parish’s pastoral administrator, to determine how he could help the parish and what his Eagle Scout project would entail. The two decided Justin and his crew would plant and transplant flowers, trim and clear a vine-choked hedgerow by the parish house, transplant a tree, and lay a new brick pathway.
He had planned in the spring to start looking for local businesses willing to donate supplies for the project but was forced to put his efforts on hold when he suffered a concussion and missed several days of school. After the school year ended and he was sufficiently recovered, Justin began soliciting donations.
Phelps Cement Products donated the materials used to make the pathway, Sunshine Enterprises donated mulch, and Fresh Ayr and Windy Hills farm markets donated perennial flowers. BSB Equipment Rental brought a backhoe to the church and dug out the course of the pathway, and the rental company also let Justin and his crew use their power tamper to compress the gravel, sand and bricks used in the pathway.
“They helped us out a great deal,” Justin said of the local companies. “Everything that we needed, they made sure that they got it to us that day.”
After acquiring the materials for the project, it was time for Justin to find people willing to provide the physical labor necessary for the project. Thirteen of his friends and fellow members of Boy Scout Troop 60 agreed to donate their time and energy, and Justin’s father, John, also spent a lot of time helping with his son’s project.
In late July, Justin and his crew began working on the parish’s yard. Their first task was to transplant some lilies from the front of the church to the side of the parish house, which is also known as the Simpson Center, and to put fresh mulch around all the flowers. They also transplanted a tree out of the path of the new walkway. After trimming and clearing the hedgerow, they also planted grass in bare spots in the hedgerow.
In the meantime, Justin mapped out the walkway’s path and called the Underground Facilities Protection Organization, which let him know whether there were any underground utility pipes or cables or telecommunication lines in the area where he planned to dig out the walkway. After the organization gave the project the green light and a 7-inch depression was dug for the walkway, the boys laid first gravel and then sand in it, compressing each layer as they went. After that, they laid the bricks on top of the sand and thought they were ready to put cementing sand in the cracks.
A professional from Phelps Cement Products begged to differ, however, and refused to give them the cementing sand until they redid the brick work and made the walkway level — a process which took several days and several attempts, Justin said. This experience was frustrating but made him even more grateful when the project was finally completed, he added.
“The biggest payout was just having the people I did it for be happy with it,” he said.
Although Justin learned some new skills while working outside at St. Francis, he admitted that he also learned what he doesn’t want to do later in life.
“If I have to put in a pathway, I now know to call in a professional,” he said with a chuckle.