Tucked against the western-facing wall of the Kenai Food Bank is a the freshly varnished shelter that will house a new resource for local clients. Sage Hill, a Life Scout in Boy Scouts of America Troop 151 and junior at Soldotna High School, built a perpetual wood shelter at the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank for people in need of firewood to heat their homes throughout the winter.
On Saturday morning members of Hill’s troop and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Soldotna helped pile in the first stacks of wood taken from Soldotna City Manager Mark Dixson’s property.
The shelter can fit about eight cords of wood, Troop 151 Scout Master and Boy Scout District Advancement Chairman Nels Anderson said. While it is in the process of being stocked unfinished, eventually it will have a roof, protective overhang and doors, he said.
One cord is 128 cubic feet of wood, or a stack four feet wide, by four feet high by eight feet long. Hill is completing the service project to receive his Eagle Scout rank, the highest a Boy Scout can receive, Anderson said.
Sage has been working toward his Eagle Scout for quite awhile, Anderson said. He has been a Boy Scout since he was about 12 years old.
“Any kid who is a Life Scout is a good Scout,” Anderson said. “Not many get to that position.”
Director of the food bank Linda Swarner said depending on how harsh the winter is, clients express a need for loads of wood.
Sometimes clients with disabilities, or who don’t have any excess wood on their property, or single women taking care of a household, simply aren’t able to process or even locate a wood supply to heat their home, Swarner said.
“We aren’t supplying someone for the whole winter,” Swarner said. “It is more just for emergencies.”
Swarner said when she heard about the project she was concerned about where the shelter would be located on the property and who would be responsible for maintaining it. However, she was immediately open to hearing the idea.
“We always look at anything positive to help out clients,” Swarner said. She approved the project after hashing out a long-term plan with Hill.
Swarner said Hill will handle maintenance and resupply of the shelter. When he has graduated from high school in the future it will become primarily the responsibility of his troop, she said.
For anyone willing to donate split wood, or have an unprocessed surplus on their property, the food bank may act as a go-between and connect the contributor will Hill who has the tools to cut and deliver the wood to the food bank.
The hope is that local groups, churches and individuals will assist the Boy Scouts in keeping the shelter stocked through out the winter, Anderson said.
Anderson said his troop has been working on clearing wood near the Tsalteshi Trails and in the Soldotna Memorial Park and already have wood to immediately contribute to fill the shelter.
It is not uncommon for Boy Scouts Hill’s age to design and carry out exceptional community projects, Anderson said. Hill’s is quite unique compared to other projects Anderson has approved in the area.
The final service project teaches the Scouts about the importance of public service, Anderson said.
To advance into an Eagle Scout, Boy Scouts meet the requirements, including a service project before their 18th birthday, Anderson said.
“Advancement is simply a means to an end, not an end in itself,” according to the Boys Scouts of America Guide to Advancement. “While a Life Scout, plan, develop, and give leadership to others in a service project helpful to any religious institution, any school, or your community.”
Swarner said the food bank is very grateful for partnership with the local Boy Scout groups. In the past Eagle Scout advancement service projects have resulted in the construction of the netting and metal from frame around the garden benches and a picnic table and food drives.
“It is not the first Boy Scout project and it won’t be the last I am sure,” Swarner said.