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Eagle Scouts

From left, Thomas Amalfitano, Rafael Dueñas, John Malony, Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker, Nicholas Accetta, Tristan Dueñas, and Assemblywoman Jodi Giglio

On Saturday, July 24, Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker joined Assemblywoman Jodi Giglio, boy scouts, troop leaders and scout families and friends to honor Troop 244’s newest Eagle Scouts: Nicholas Accetta and Tristan Dueñas. The ceremony was held at the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 6249’s Hall in Rocky Point.

It was an honor to congratulate Nicholas and Tristan at their Eagle Scout Court of Honor Ceremony, said Legislator Anker. They have dedicated themselves to serving their local community and have had a positive impact through not only their service projects, but through their kindness and dedication for the residents of Suffolk County.

Eagle Scout is the highest rank that a scout can receive. It requires hard work and dedication for a scout to earn 21 merit badges, complete a community service project and undergo a lengthy review process. Nicholas Accetta and Tristan Dueñas received the prestigious rank of Eagle Scout after completing their community service projects.

Nicholas constructed a cubby-type structure for the Rocky Point High School’s Cross Country Team, which will provide the team a secure and convenient space to place their belongings during their frequent runs through wooded trails. Tristan built a storage shed with a platform and donated supplies and a transport cart for the Save the Animals Rescue (STAR) foundation, which will provide the STAR foundation with the resources they need to continue carrying out their mission to support wildlife and domestic animals. For more information about the Boy Scouts of America and the rank of Eagle Scout, please visit www.scouting.org.

“Nicholas and Tristan did an incredible job on their project with their contributions to the Save the Animals Rescue Foundation and Rocky Point Cross Country team,” Giglio said. “I look forward to watching these two young men make a positive difference in our world. Congratulations to you both— you should be extremely proud!”

Port Jefferson Station’s Zach Gallant, who just earned Eagle Scout, stands next to his project — refurbishing a statue at Comsewogue Public Libray originally created by Mount Sinai’s Pauli Suominen. Photo by Julianne Mosher

An Eagle Scout decided to help out his local library and spruce up a Mount Sinai artist’s sculpture. 

Sculptor Pauli Suominen gifted the sculpture to the Comsewogue Public Library in 1999. After more than two decades greeting visitors outside the library’s doors, Zach Gallant, of Port Jefferson Station, decided to make its restoration his Eagle Scout project. 

The 18-year-old from Troop #354 said that he wasn’t even born yet when the sculpture was first created, but he knew that the community would love to see it shine again. 

“I had been working on it for about nine months from start to finish,” he said, adding it was a complete team effort that included his troop, scoutmaster, the library and Suominen’s oversight.

At first, the Scout wasn’t sure what he wanted to do for his final project. It wasn’t until he visited the library and spoke with Library Director Debbie Engelhardt after a tour of the library grounds.

“We walked the property together and saw the sculpture needed some TLC,” she said. “He got support from his scoutmaster and it became a plan.”

The sculpture, titled “Tiger,” previously was on the opposite side of the library, and could be seen from Terryville Road. With Gallant’s renovation, they moved it to the front door, so it be seen easier by all. 

“It’s a focal point now where it’s going to make people smile,” Engelhardt said. “It’s nice and bright, whimsical and we’re shining a spotlight on it.

Suominen, a Vietnam veteran, was a carpenter by trade, but his passion is as a self-taught artist. He uses scraps of metal, pieces of wood and stone to create abstract sculptures, that are seen throughout the library property and across the country.  

“Pauli was very happy to work with Zach Gallant on the refurbishment project,” his wife, Christine, said. “It is always encouraging when younger people are interested in doing something for the community. Zach and his group did a great job of restoring the sculpture to its original luster.”

Gallant said the sculpture is unique because it’s made from recycled materials. 

“Mr. Suominen had just taken scraps off the ground and things he’d seen and created the sculpture with four chairs and a bike rack,” he said. 

During his project process, he and six other people took the whole sculpture off the library grounds and brought it to their scoutmaster’s garage. There, he sanded it, painted it and made sure all changes were approved from its original artist. 

“It was a lot of work, more than I expected,” he said. “But I’m proud of myself … It’s definitely not something you can just do with no help. You need people to guide you.”

Gallant said the whole renovation took about three months, overall. It was put back in its new spot at the library in January. 

“A lot of people love it already, or can’t wait to see it,” he said.

And the statue can now stand there for another set of decades for people to enjoy.

“It was really a wonderful community partnership,” Engelhardt said. “We’re always so happy to connect.” 

The Eagle Scout said that although it was a lot of hard work, he’s so happy he was able to help his community, and earn his new title.He gave advice to fellow Boy Scouts who are thinking of joining the higher rank.

“If you’re close to becoming an Eagle Scout, just finish it because being so close doesn’t get you anywhere in life — finishing it does,” he said. 

Local Boy Scout Troop 454 helps beautify the Greenway Trail as part of a community service project, led by James Nielsen. Photo by Alex Petroski

The popular walking trail that connects Setauket and Port Jefferson Station is getting much needed TLC from some of the community’s youngest leaders.

Fifteen-year-old James Nielsen of Terryville Boy Scout Troop 454 organized a clean-up effort on the Port Jefferson Station end of the Greenway Trail Oct. 29 and has future plans to create a sign post with a smartphone scannable QR code that will provide historical information alongside a bench in the trail. The plan would be part of James’ process to become an Eagle Scout.

At the other end of the 3.4-mile long nature trail, Eagle Scout candidate Jake Linkletter also organized a clean-up effort and fundraised for a new kiosk in the Gnarled Hollow Road parking lot in Setauket.

Local Boy Scout Troop 454 helps beautify the Greenway Trail as part of a community service project, led by James Nielsen. Photo by Alex Petroski
Local Boy Scout Troop 454 helps beautify the Greenway Trail as part of a community service project, led by James Nielsen. Photo by Alex Petroski

The cleanups were started to remove brush and litter from the trail as part of a beautification process.

Charles McAteer, chairman of the not-for-profit organization Friends of the Greenway Trail, is grateful for all of the work being done by local Scouts, which he called “invaluable.”

“This community spirit is what has and continues to make the Greenway the community gem we all hoped it would be,” McAteer said in an email. “Civic groups like Scouts have contributed via their fundraising thousands of dollars for improvements to the trail as well as hundreds of man hours in cleanups and creating the various improvements. As mentioned, all to help the community keep the Greenway clean — fulfilling the needs of our citizens.”

James said he feels the community service efforts are important because it shows how many people care about the area and its trail.

“I’ve [been] sending out emails to the people in my troop and the people I’ve been working with on the project — the fundraising people who have been working to get my project improved — It’s been a bit of work, but I’ve been glad for all the help that I’ve been getting,” he said. “I feel like it’s a good community.”

James attends JFK Middle School, and his parents Steven and Jean are both teachers in the Comsewogue School District.

From left Marc Difilippo, Jake Linkletter, AJ Colletta and David Linkletter install a new kiosk on the Setauket end of the trail. Photo by Nick Koridis
From left Marc Difilippo, Jake Linkletter, AJ Colletta and David Linkletter install a new kiosk on the Setauket end of the trail. Photo by Nick Koridis

“It has been an unbelievable experience to watch him,” James’ father said of his son. “When he started he was kind of shy and introverted, and to watch him grow throughout the years in Scouts — taking a leadership role … I’m so proud of him.”

James’ mother stressed the importance of doing something positive to benefit the community.

“It’s really nice to see something positive in Port Jefferson Station,” she said. “I feel like living here forever, we need some things to be proud of, some things for our community. But to have some pride, and see all of these residents working together, it’s just very, very exciting. I’m proud of James and the Boy Scouts.”

Strathmore Bagels in Setauket donated bagels on the morning of the cleanup. James has also set up a crowd-funding website where community members can donate money to support his project. He has received almost $450 in donations, and his ultimate goal is to raise $800. To contribute to his efforts visit www.youcaring.com/james-nielsen-659986.