Eagle Scout project helps homeless veterans become self-sufficient as they transition into homes

Friday, Dec. 26, 2014
Eagle Scout project helps homeless veterans become self-sufficient as they transition into homes Photo 1 of 2
Deacon Herschel Hester (left) pins the Eagle Scout Award on Ben McCraw at his Court of Honor ceremony. IC photo/Christine Young

OGDEN — Benjamin McCraw, Trapper Trails Troop 293, achieved the rank of Eagle Scout at his Court of Honor held on Dec. 19 at Saint James the Just Parish.
Deacon Herschel Hester, chartered organization representative, and George Hall, president of the Trapper Trails Council #589, Boy Scouts of America, presented McCraw with the award.
McCraw’s Eagle Scout project was to build a dresser for the Homeless Veterans Fellowship in Ogden, but he went beyond that one task. 
“He set a new standard for the Eagle Scouts with the work he did,” said Jeff Kane, Homeless Veterans Fellowship director. “Ben’s project developed a way for the homeless veterans to build their own dressers and become more self-sufficient.”
The Homeless Veterans Fellowship assists men “in getting an education so they can transition into their own homes,” said McCraw. “When they move, they also receive some furniture, and the dressers they have been using are made out of particle board. After they have been used by two or three different people for a couple of years, they start to fall apart.” 
McCraw’s project was to construct something sturdy that the veterans could take with them when they transition into their own housing. The wood he used was ¾ inch Baltic Birch plywood, with ¼ inch plywood for the back and bottom of the drawers. 
The project had three components. The first was to build a completed dresser. The second was to cut out the parts for a second dresser to give to the Homeless Veterans Fellowship to be used either to make a second dresser, or to be used as a template for another dresser. The third component was to produce an instructional manual for building the dresser as well as outline the required materials and equipment. 
“The instruction manual was the most difficult and the most detailed part of the project because Ben was trying to write for people who have varying degrees of reading competency and craftsmanship,” said Deacon Hester. “There was a learning curve for Ben and for a couple of us who assisted him.”  
The instruction manual was not written completely from scratch, said McCraw. “Rod Johnson, a Vietnam veteran, had written a skeleton instruction manual that we expanded on and made easier for people to understand.”
Also required to earn an Eagle Scout award is earning at least 21 merit badges; McCraw earned 33. 
“Every merit badge earned for an Eagle takes a considerable amount of planning,” said Rich Atkins, Eagle Scout coordinator. “Ben also was required to serve in a troop leadership position. From the time he was a Tenderfoot, we watched his character unfold and he became a young man.”
McCraw organized work parties among the scouts to build the initial dresser; about five scouts would come in the afternoon and evenings with an adult leader to complete the jobs he planned, such as sanding and gluing.
McCraw’s biggest challenge was learning how to supervise the adults, said Deacon Hester. “The adults were experienced craftsmen in one way or another,” he said. “Ben had to work through a number of complexities, to know when to ask for help, and he did that. He logged 622 hours in this project.” 
There are now resources available for this project to go on as it was originally designed, added Deacon Hester.
Scouting has “nurtured Ben’s character, instructed him in morals, and given him practical life skills both in the classroom and outdoors,” said Sonny McCraw, Ben’s father. “Watching him grow in Troop 293 among his Scout family has been nothing short of awe inspiring, a complete honor.” 
Ben McCraw said he has learned a sense of duty and a sense of being prepared through his scouting experiences.

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