By Mallika Mitra
A Boy Scout at Ward Melville High School has completed an Eagle service project that beautifies and benefits the Russian Orthodox Monastery of the Holy Cross on Main Street in East Setauket. Justin Russo, 15, got a gazebo donated by John T. Mather Memorial Hospital installed at the church.
Justin said he was on his way home from searching for possible projects when he decided to see if the church could find something for him to work on. Father John, a priest at the Brotherhood of the Holy Cross, explained to Justin that the church used to baptize under a tree that was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, and that they were looking for a gazebo for baptisms.
The 10th-grade Boy Scout of Troop 117 began searching for a gazebo for the church.
When he called Gera Gardens in Mount Sinai, he was told that they had sold a gazebo to the hospital and that the hospital was now getting rid of it. With the help of his father, the assistant Scoutmaster of the troop who knew a Mather Hospital board member, Justin was able to get the gazebo donated to the church.
They hired East Setauket-based Hurricane Tree Experts Inc. to remove the stump of the tree that had been there since the tree was destroyed during Hurricane Sandy and a local roofing company to restore the gazebo’s roofing.
Justin was able to raise money by collecting donations from friends and family.
“Thankfully I had a lot of support,” he said.
He worked after school and on the weekends doing paperwork and completing business transactions for the service project, with the help of his father.
At the end of November, the Boy Scout organized younger members of his troop to help put in and power wash the gazebo, and put in new banisters and railings, which were destroyed when they got the gazebo from Mather Hospital.
“To teach, you’ve got to be a good leader,” Justin said about organizing the younger Scouts to help him with his project, and added that working with the younger boys was a great experience.
The original plan was to stain the gazebo as well, but they ended up not doing so because “The people at the church said it was perfect the way it was,” Justin said.
Now that the project is completed, Justin, who has been a Boy Scout for about six years, still keeps in touch with Father John at the Brotherhood of the Holy Cross. He said that because he still has some funds left over from the project, he will be able to help Father John with future projects related to the gazebo, if they come up.
The Boy Scout still has a few tasks to finish before he officially becomes an Eagle Scout, but his service project is now complete.
“It was a really good experience,” he said. “I’ve never been involved in anything like it.”