By Rita J. Egan
Blessings have been popping up more and more at churches in the Three Village area thanks to a Stony Brook Eagle Scout.
Matthew Seyfert recently achieved the rank right before his 18th birthday. The Ward Melville senior completed a project where he and other Scouts assembled seven wood structures like the Little Free Libraries found all over Long Island. Called a blessing box, Seyfert said the cabinets will provide spots at seven local churches where congregants can add an item that may be needed by others. The member of Setauket Troop 70 said he completed his project just in time, since boys have until they turn 18 to reach the pinnacle of the program.
“It felt really good, because even though I was a little pressed for time when I started my project, I tried to pick a project that I really didn’t do as a requirement just for completion,” he said. “[It’s] something that would have a larger impact on my community. It meant a lot to me.”
The Eagle Scout said he was watching the news when he heard about a blessing box in Texas, and thought it was a good idea to create a cabinet for his own place of worship, Stony Brook Community Church, among others. The Scout said church members typically fill the cabinet with items like school supplies at the beginning of the academic year, and socks and gloves or nonperishables in the winter.
When he approached the Rev. Chuck Van Houten, Seyfert said the pastor of Stony Brook Community Church was enthusiastic about the project, and reached out to other church leaders through the Three Village Interfaith Clergy group to see who else would be interested in one.
Van Houten said he was impressed with Seyfert’s endeavor, but added he wasn’t surprised, noting how involved the high school senior has been in the church, and the leadership qualities he possesses.
“I thought it was a great idea, especially since one of the main missions or ministries of our church right now is feeding people in the local school district,” the pastor said.
“I thought it was a great idea, especially since one of the main missions or ministries of our church right now is feeding people in the local school district.”
— Rev. Chuck Van Houten
Once a month church members purchase food for a local food pantry, according to Van Houten, who said the Stony Brook Community Church box will mainly be used to house nonperishables. He said the best part is that people can drop off or pick up items every day, all day, unlike a pantry where dates and times can be limited. In the next few weeks, the Seyferts will join Van Houten in finding a place in front of the church for the blessing box, and he hopes that all community members will use it in the future.
Seyfert said while a few church councils were concerned maintaining a blessing Box may be a big responsibility, he explained it would be on a stand and easy to move, adding it’s up to the congregation what they want to fill them with and how often.
The Scout’s father, Dave, said he was proud of his son for coming up with the idea, especially because financial situations can change dramatically with sickness or job loss, and said the need is greater than many would think in the Three Village area. The pair put together a prototype back in November before moving forward.
“I thought it was a well thought out project and well executed,” David Seyfert said.
Matthew Seyfert said future Eagle Scouts need to supervise the projects more than build them, so he got together some fellow Scouts and gave each boy a job based on age. While some did prep-work, others painted and others drilled. His father said local businesses Ace Hardware in Setauket, Riverhead Building Supply, Home Depot, Lowe’s and Omega Moulding Company donated supplies. Seyfert decided they would have roofs in colors that matched each church, after Setauket Presbyterian Church asked what color the boxes would be.
They’ve been placed at six locations so far, including Stony Brook Community Church, Setauket Presbyterian, Bethel AME Church, Caroline Church of Brookhaven, All Souls Episcopal Church and Setauket United Methodist Church. The Scout said he hopes to find a home for the seventh one in the near future. He said he has mixed feelings about the project being over.
“It was a relief, but it was also kind of sad because we were working on it for so long, that it was weird to not be focused on it,” Seyfert said. “But it felt really good to now finally implement them.”
The Eagle Scout project has left him with some advice for other boys looking to achieve the feat.
“Choose something you’re interested in so it’s not as much work,” Seyfert said. “Also, start early. It’s a lot of planning. You really can’t start without planning.”