Scout Law teaches young people to be helpful, trustworthy, and kind, reverent toward God and respectful of all. Such values resonated with Sister Lyn Szymkiewicz of the Leadership Team who nurtured a partnership with the Scouts and the Sisters of St. Joseph more than a decade ago when she served as Director of Grounds and Ecology. “I knew scouting offered a way to let these young men (and now women) use their gifts and talents,” she recalls, explaining that the Scouts’ focus on leadership training and helping the broader community “seemed like a perfect fit.”
The latest example of this partnership is a new wooden bridge that replaces the aging railroad ties crossing the creek along the Nature Trail, which completes the ½ mile route on our grounds.
The service project by aspiring Eagle Scout Alek Serowik, 17, came about through his association with Congregational Archivist Kathleen Washy, who serves as Advancement Chair for Troop 368, which is affiliated with their church, St. Teresa of Avila. She connected Alek to Luke Badaczewski, Director of Grounds and Ecology at the Motherhouse, and they met this past winter before the onset of the pandemic to discuss the possibility of building a replacement.
Together with friends and guidance from his Dad, Alek constructed the bridge in sections at his North Hills home, later transporting them to the grounds for installation.
Construction of the bridge occurred over three work days, one to dig holes for the concrete pylons, another to pour concrete for the support posts, and the last to complete installation of the new bridge. A shortage of pressure-treated lumber caused by work slowdowns in the spring delayed the project, which all hoped would be completed by Earth Day. The 30-foot bridge required quite a bit of wood, which Alek was eventually able to obtain from 84 Lumber.
“An Eagle project is pretty intense, very detail-oriented from start to finish,” Kathy explains. “You’re responsible for putting the proposal together, raising needed funds, and securing the materials, tools, and volunteers to complete the work on schedule.” She added that Alek demonstrated leadership the whole way, especially when faced with unexpected challenges presented by COVID-19.
Reflecting on his experience managing a project of this scale, Alek, who is looking forward to a career in the Army, says the biggest thing he learned was “to trust in God – that God provides. . . We were worried about a storm on the day we poured the concrete, but it passed right over us, and after that first delay, we were able to get the lumber we needed.”
The extra on-site help by Alek and other Scouts, ranging in age from 11 to 18, has contributed invaluably to the Sisters’ eco ministries and capacity to serve our dear neighbors and care for Creation. “They helped us get what we needed to get done while benefiting the larger community,” Sister Lyn says with gratitude, reflecting on the significant contributions of these young men, whose handiwork is evident throughout the 80-acre campus:
- raised beds and a storage shed at Miriam’s and Elizabeth’s community gardens, which produce thousands of pounds of fresh food each year for local pantries;
- a plastic-covered hoop house at Twin Trinity garden that provides warm growing conditions for vegetables in colder months
- three owl boxes frequented by Eastern Screech owls; and
- pedestrian bridges along a half-mile Nature Trail on the upper portion of the property.
Alek says he is grateful for the support of his fellow scouts, his family, Mrs. Washy, Luke, and the Sisters for this opportunity to grow and contribute. Alek hopes more young people will connect in Christian fellowship, and to “never leave the ideals of Christ at the doorstep” when you enter new places in life.
Thanks to his work and other Scouts, more of our dear neighbors will be able to draw closer to God through an experience in nature, and for that, our Sisters give thanks.