As a light rain fell on the volunteer crew Saturday morning in Lupe’s Community Garden, Eagle Scout candidate Atli Thurman appeared to be in the perfect setting to complete a project for others to enjoy.
While completing his final requirement to achieve the highest rank in the Boy Scouts, Thurman directed the others through the construction of a covered sandbox to give young children a place to spend some time while parents get in some gardening time. Thurman displayed an air of confidence with his leadership and a competence that will carry him well into his adult years.
But despite organizing the project and seeing it through to completion, Thurman directs the attention away from himself while talking about his contribution. No, for this 17-year-old — he’ll be 18 later this month — it’s all about bringing attention to Philomath Community Services and all of the services that the organization provides to the region.
“The biggest thing for me is just letting people know that they’re here and to take advantage of the services that they’re giving,” Thurman said. “Especially for families who struggle to put food on the table, it’s a huge benefit for people to come in and get bread and get canned food and get meats. Some of the ladies who work here even bring freshly-cooked pastries and they donate their time and give to people. It’s a wonderful service that people should know about.”
Philomath Community Services fills an important need through five programs that provide food, clothing, firewood, seasonal gift baskets and other day-to-day needs. One of those programs is Lupe’s Community Garden, which operates with the intention of teaching people how to garden, grow their own food and give back to others by sharing a portion of the harvest with the food bank.
The cooperative community garden carries the name of Lupe Maginnis, a dedicated volunteer for several years at Philomath Community Services Food Bank and several other organizations.
“Last year, this garden here pulled out 500-plus pounds of produce,” Thurman said. “People come in and garden and the kids will come in and garden. The families get to take fresh produce home.”
Thurman, a member of Philomath Boy Scouts Troop 161, sort of grew up around the food bank and garden. It was natural for him to come up with an Eagle Scout project that would benefit the organization in some way.
“I’ve done a lot of service here at the gardens, just giving my time to the gardens,” he said. “My mother, Tina (Collett), she was a secretary some odd years back for Philomath Community Services and she was a bread runner.”
Thurman lived in Blodgett until age 13 when the family moved to Philomath. At the local high school, the senior has been heavily involved in the performing arts. But he’s spent an awful lot of time in Lupe’s Community Garden.
“I’ve been working in the garden for a myriad of years now just donating my time,” he said. “Sometimes I’ll take produce out, but I really only take plants to regrow at my own house. I have some mint that I grow and some other herbs and spices that I’ve replanted.”
To earn Eagle Scout status, 21 merit badges must be earned, 13 of them in specific categories, and candidates also complete a lengthy review process. Troop 161 Scouts can begin working toward the achievement when they’re in the sixth grade and must complete requirements before age 18. Those that make it usually use every one of those six or seven years.
So when he needed a project, the garden naturally came to mind.
“A lot of parents bring their kids while they’re working here and sometimes the kids can get up to mischievousness,” he said.
Thurman credits Denise Guinn, the garden’s program manager, for helping with the specifics from picking an area for the sandbox to running ideas through the board of directors.
A few other ideas for additions to the garden had been considered, such as a covered prep area where people could cut vegetables, or a covered play structure for children to enjoy. But space restrictions were an issue.
“Eventually, we settled on the sandbox because it’s a really good thing that can keep the kids busy … they can dig in the sand or help their family or parents with the gardening,” he said. “Sometimes, the kids just need something to keep them busy and that’s ultimately what we settled on.”
The sandbox, which has a cover that folds up into benches, measures 4-by-4 feet and is 12 inches deep. Thurman said Spaeth Lumber gave the project a significant discount on lumber and hinges. Plus, volunteers like Jay Barrett, who owns Jay B Construction, donated screws and brought in equipment that could be used.
“It’s a lot of people coming together, it’s not just me,” Thurman said. “A lot of people coming together to make this happen.”
Even after Thurman ages out of the Boy Scouts program, he plans to stay involved with the organization.
“I plan to be a Scout leader for the troop so I can turn around and still participate,” he said.
Thurman’s project will no doubt bring a little extra fun to some youngsters who visit the garden with their parents. But for the future Eagle Scout, it’s about much more.
“I really want this whole deal to be about this area — the Philomath Community Services,” he said. “They’re a wonderful service that people donate lots of hours to and it’s really underused by the community. Some people don’t even know they’re back here.”