When Scouts put all their hearts and minds into doing something, no distance is too great – not even 1,100 miles.
For proof, look no further than twin brothers Matthew and Andrew Schramkowski of Troop 8 in Brentwood, Tennessee, which is part of the Middle Tennessee Council.
Last year, the Schramkowski family drove 16 hours along Interstate 40 so Matthew and Andrew could complete the Eagle Scout service projects in Santa Rosa, NM.
Matthew planned, designed and led the installation of new walls inside an aging community center. Andrew did the same with the flooring in the community center.
But why travel to four states to complete the Eagle projects instead of finding something closer to home?
There are two answers, say the brothers. First, they live in Williamson County, which is the richest in Tennessee. Troop 8 is big and their Scouts complete several outstanding Eagle projects in and around Brentwood each year. With these factors in mind, they thought they could do more good elsewhere.
And second, the brothers wanted to find projects that had personal meaning for them. (Tips we’ve already shared.)
“It seems that people [in Santa Rosa] needed it more than the people of Brentwood, ”says Andrew. “We also know the locals because we have a ranch there. It was a bit like doing a project in our home away from home.
The story gets even more interesting from there. Bryan on Scouting spoke with Matthew, Andrew and their father to learn more about how they came up with project ideas, planned projects while living in two time zones, and found enough volunteers to do it.
Quick reminder of Advancement Guide
Before you continue, you might be wondering if the BSA allows Scouts to carry out projects outside of their city, local council, or state. The answer is yes!
Eagle Scout Requirement 5 says that a Life Scout must accomplish “a project of service useful to any religious institution, any school or your community”.
Article 220.127.116.11 of Advancement Guide explains that “your community” can be interpreted as “the community of the world”.
Here is the full explanation of To guide:
“All religious institutions” and “all schools” are self-explanatory. But what does “your community” mean? In today’s world of instant communications and fast travel, we are increasingly affected by what is happening all over the world. The prices of goods and services, the value of investments, our very security and how we feel about the less fortunate in other countries are all involved. So, if the Scouts want to take an oath to “help others” more broadly and put their projects at the service of the “community of the world”, they are allowed to do so. A council may focus on more local efforts but should not turn down worthy projects of a larger scope.
Indeed, we blogged about Boy Scouts whose Eagle projects were not only in other states, but also in other countries, such as Honduras, Panama and South Africa.
While visiting Philmont a year ago, Paul Schramkowski came across a ranch that was for sale.
“Our family bought this ranch and we all fell in love with the area,” says Paul.
During a visit, the Schramkowskis began talking to local residents who shared their hope that one day the community could raise enough money to install real flooring and walls in their community center.
The ah-ha moment had arrived.
“We all looked at each other and asked if they knew what an Eagle Project was,” says Paul. “They didn’t, so we explained it. They were amazed. “
Large construction projects are carried out in stages so that workers do not interfere with each other.
Matthew and Andrew planned their projects with this concept in mind. Andrew and his assistants (including Matthew) would set up the floor first. Once that was done, Matthew and his assistants (including Andrew) would work on the walls.
With that decision made, they focused on recruiting volunteers. Scouts should lead at least two people (not counting themselves) when working on an Eagle project.
Knowing that they were unlikely to persuade members of their original troop to travel 1,100 miles to volunteer, Matthew and Andrew searched for the troop closest to the project site. They found one about a two hour drive away in Albuquerque.
Luckily, the troupe was planning a weekend at the Blue hole, a swimming and diving spot in Santa Rosa.
“We knew they had to camp somewhere and we were on our way to their destination, so we offered to camp them near the community center to help with the Eagle projects,” Paul says. “In return, I would teach the merit badges – I am an advisor for the cooking, animal science, and citizenship badges.”
Everything was perfectly planned. Then COVID happened.
Planning begins again
With the pandemic worsening as summer 2020 approaches, the Albuquerque Troop has canceled plans to visit the Blue Hole. This meant that they also had to give up their commitment to volunteer work.
“We had planned three days for each of the two projects and no real volunteers,” says Paul.
So Matthew and Andrew reached out to the local newspaper to share their story, and their luck was changed. After reading the story, young and adult volunteers – mostly not affiliated with Scouting – offered to help. Three of the adults who introduced themselves worked as carpenters, which made their presence even more valuable.
Community members contributed more than themselves and their talents. Some also brought food. Matthew and Andrew had planned to buy a lunch for their volunteers each day, but instead some local families provided everyone with New Mexican cuisine.
“They were very excited and grateful,” says Andrew. “It saved us time that we could better devote to finishing the project. “
As for the materials, they came from multiple sources. Andrew purchased the flooring from Lumber Liquidators in Albuquerque. Matthew bought the wall materials from a store in Nashville, Tenn., Loaded it onto a trailer, and hauled it west.
“It was a heavy load, but we did it,” says Paul.
The two young men raised money for their projects by raising funds in Williamson County.
What Matthew learned
While leading his mural restoration project, Matthew was careful to follow the old adage of “measure twice, cut once”.
Most of his supplies came from Nashville, meaning mistakes would be costly.
“Quality matters. If you don’t do a good job on the job it doesn’t look good and you have to take it out and do it again, which is more work, ”says Matthew. “The nearest store to correct an error was 90 minutes round trip. If we were wrong, we risked not finishing.
In addition to this lesson, Matthew learned that it is difficult to lead people you have just met. In his local troop, Matthew knows what leadership strategies might work with each of his fellow Scouts. This is not the case in New Mexico.
“Leading people you know and go to school with is one thing,” he says, “but you get so much more out of it when you lead people you don’t know. “
What Andrew learned
For Andrew, the service project is necessary for Eagle because it challenges the Boy Scouts to show leadership.
“It shows how we can lead by example,” he says.
And so, yes, Andrew helped clean the floor, add a waterproof barrier, and install the wood planks. But just as important, he also guided others through these same tasks.
Speaking of guiding others, Andrew’s biggest problem was trying to guide a delivery driver to the project site.
“This location is not really on a map,” says Andrew. “So the truck driver got lost with the flooring and couldn’t find us. We had to go to another city to get them.
Despite this challenge, Andrew says he’s proven to himself and others that “you can make your project happen anywhere if you plan and prepare for it.”
What Paul learned
Paul says watching his sons complete their Eagle projects was the remarkable final stop on a life-changing journey.
He’s been there since the beginning of their time in Scouting as part of the 419 Cub Pack. And he’s been there for every meeting, outing and hike since.
“It’s time for us to have fun and learn together,” says Paul.
About 150 miles north of Santa Rosa is the Philmont Scout Ranch. And that’s where Paul says he noticed the biggest change of all in his sons.
“When hiking in Philmont, people – including myself – learn a lot about themselves and each other,” he says. “We are a family, and I am the father and they are my children, but on the track we are all equal.”
During their Eagle projects, Paul acted as an advisor. Her personal motto for this role pretty much sums up what all Parent Scouts strive to do: “I can help you do your job. I won’t do your job for you.