National News

Boy pursuing Eagle Scout rank builds garden for assisted living facility

Posted June 27

— A 14-year-old looking to earn his Eagle Scout and residents at an assistant living community in Duluth may not have had much in common two years ago. They do now.

Each growing season, they should receive ripe reminders of a connection formed about a year ago.

Garrett Hinton, a founding member of Troop 608 in Suwanee, was connected with Country Gardens Senior Living in Duluth after Debbie Brown, the activities director at the facility, contacted the Boy Scouts of America looking for someone to help residents realize a dream of a fresh garden.

Hinton's father, Toby, called it perfect timing.

"It was a about the same degree as other Eagle projects had heard of, and I felt it was a really good thing to do for the community," Garrett said. "It's really hard to figure out what to do. You have to find out what you want to do and what the community needs."

The person pursing the Eagle Scout is in charge of planning, executing and leading the project. So Hinton organized about 20 members of Troop 608, working about four hours each and completed the work in two weekends.

"It was a little challenging because there was two work areas," said Hinton, who is homeschooled. "So I had to run back and forth. I designated a leader for the site I wasn't directly working with. I know all of them, we have pretty good team work, so it went well."

After he met with Brown and staff at Country Gardens, Hinton built a garden table so wheelchairs can roll partially under the garden and people in wheelchairs can reach the plants.

Herbs, squash, tomatoes and other vegetables were planted and fried green tomatoes have become such a hit among the residents that it's difficult to find them still on the vine.

"It gives them the ability to take back a hobby that they stopped doing," Brown said. "They lose so much when they move into an assisted living or nursing home. They have to give up so much independence. The way it's designed and built, they don't have to give it up anymore."

Willie Mae Lee, a resident at Country Gardens, said she's a country girl raised on a farm in Alabama, and added, "I know all about this."

The average age at Country Gardens is about 90, and Brown said most of the residents grew up at a time when farming was a necessity for survival. She said a garden to them growing up was as common as a cell phone today.

"It just gave the residents that ability to re-create what they did in their own homes," County Gardens Executive Director Scott Ulrich said, added that difficult economic times in and following the Great Depression led to people growing their own food. "It gets them back to that mode and back in times feeling of purpose and sense of purpose."

Hinton said he enjoyed watching the residents plant most of the vegetables, and see their faces, "light up."

"It was very fulfilling to see the finished product," he said. "They said it was perfect and really liked it."

The project cost about $800 to complete, and the residents and staff at Country Gardens contributed about $300, while Hinton raised the balance.

Hinton has finished a majority of the process to earn an Eagle Scout, including a sign off from his troop leader, but he is waiting to sit for his Eagle Board Review to officially receive the award. He said he plans to continue in scouting and pursue other merit badges and bronze, silver and gold Eagle Palms.

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