Eagle Scout project offers place for grieving, comfort, solace
Jacob Schulfer has been in Boy Scouts for many years, and like other members has participated in camping, pinewood derbies and community service events. But when it came to designing a project for his Eagle Scout award, Schulfer wanted more.
He wanted to give back to the community while also providing them some peace.
Schulfer, 17, designed a prayer garden for his Eagle Scout project, garnered support – more than $5,000 worth – from the community and then joined friends, family and other interested volunteers in three days’ work measuring, erecting and planting to bring the project to fruition.
The prayer garden, complete with benches, a pergola and bushes and flowers, sits atop a small grassy area in Sacred Heart Church cemetery in Polonia, a spot that is just far enough away as to not bother those visiting specific headstones, yet close enough to be able to view any one of them.
“It’s my home parish,” said Schulfer, a member of Boy Scout Troop 298, “And the church is important to me. There wasn’t a good spot to sit and reflect or meditate while in the cemetery. This is something that has been needed for a very long time.”
There are headstones that date back to the 1880s, and the (Felician) Sisters who settled here also are buried in this cemetery. Seated on one of the benches overlooking the cemetery, their headstones can be seen when looking off to the left.
Eagle Scout is the highest rank attainable in the Boy Scouts of America. Just 4 percent of Boy Scouts are granted this rank after a lengthy review process. The requirements necessary to achieve the honor take years to fulfill, including earning at least 21 merit badges, demonstration of scout spirit, an ideal attitude based upon Scout Oath and Law, service and leadership, as well as an extensive service project that the Scout plans, organizes, leads and manages.
“We are so thrilled for Jacob to have had this opportunity through scouts and church, so very proud of the effort that he put forth and his persistence through to the finish,” said LouAnn Schulfer, Jacob Schulfer’s mother.
“The project management experience that he has just gone through for the past year and a half or so planning the prayer garden and following it through to the finish is truly an exercise of excellence,” she said. “We are so proud of him.”
Schulfer, a senior at Pacelli Catholic High School, spent months and countless hours throughout the process, starting with approaching his pastor to see what he could do for the church community. The Rev. Gregory Michaud directed Schulfer to Louis Wysocki, the cemetery chair.
Together, the two came up with the idea of a prayer garden, reviewed different concepts, and then Schulfer developed a blueprint. There were revisions done, then Schulfer took the plans back to his Scout Troop Committee followed by the district level for approval.
Researching materials, determining a budget and fundraising came next. Schulfer designed a brochure, spoke before the church congregation after Mass and requested donations to have a name inscribed on a brick or bench or even sponsor the pergola.
“People started making contributions right away and eventually, we doubled our fundraising goal,” he said. In fact, after his presentations to the congregation, he had to modify his blueprints once again; there were more people wanting to sponsor a bench than he had benches planned.
Schulfer still has several steps to go through before he learns whether he earned his Eagle Scout award – it could be several weeks yet – but even if for some reason he misses the mark, the effort put into it and the end result was well worth it, he said.
“People will be able to use the prayer garden … for many, many years to come,” he said. “I’m grateful to be able to give back to my church, especially in an area of people’s lives that is very difficult: grieving for a loved one.”
Along with designing and fundraising, Schulfer organized volunteer groups to help with the project and managed the project on-site. Volunteers included Zachary Schulfer, Dillon Tutton, Dave Tutton, Luke Pekarek, Nate DiSalvo, Phil DiSalvo, Dylan Morey, Ben Strojny, Brett Buechel, Connor Buechel, Mike Zakrzewski, Hunter Zakrzerski, Riley Krupka, Jeff Krupka, Kahner Konopacky, Kevin Konopacky, Tim Tippel, Matt Tippel, Ron Tippel, Ethan Buechel, the Rev. Greg Michaud, Ben Westrick, Gene Schulfer and LouAnn Schulfer.