When it came time to pick his Eagle Scout project, Lyons Township High School senior Joe Przybylowski, a member of Boy Scout Troop 19 in La Grange, knew he wanted to do something to help others.
Last summer, he reached out to Helping Hand Center, a Countryside-based nonprofit organization that services individuals with disabilities in Berwyn, Brookfield, Countryside, Downers Grove, Hinsdale, La Grange, Riverside, Westmont and the surrounding areas, to see how he could help improve the lives of its clients.
Just more than one year later, residents at three of the organization’s homes are now able to enjoy gardening, thanks to the elevated planters Joe and a group of Boy Scouts built and installed in July. The planters are about 3 feet tall, which allows individuals who can’t get on the ground to grow fruits, vegetables and plants in their own backyards.
“I have two neighbors who’ve had a lot of help from Helping Hand, so I knew about the organization,” Joe said. “I approached them in the summer of 2017 and asked them what I could do. They said that a lot of residents like to garden, so I made planters out of wood 2-by-4s that are wheelchair accessible.”
While Joe’s dad, Thad Przybylowski, helped him with some of the measurements, he planned and led the project on his own. Joe, who has been a scout since he was in first grade, said his role as an aspiring Eagle Scout wasn’t actually to build the planters, but to organize everything so that the other scouts in his troop could assemble the planters, which took two Saturdays to complete.
“It was really fun, and [building the planters] wasn’t nearly as stressful as I first thought,” Joe said. “The planning was more difficult, but the execution was easy. The most rewarding part was bringing the planters to the homes. The residents love gardening, and this will make it a lot easier for them.”
The residents have been enjoying the planters, said Megan Gonzales, quality control director at Helping Hand Center. The organization is always willing to help with scout projects, she said, and because the center knew of some residents who wanted to garden, she asked Joe if he’d be willing to take on the project. The planters were placed in the homes of residents who had expressed interest in gardening.
“[Joe] was very open and interested in building the planters. It’s not always easy to find things in stores that are suited to [our clients’] abilities, so having something specifically made for them that’s safe and sturdy really helps people live their lives more fully," Gonzales said.
Thad Przybylowski said he is very proud of his son for completing the often-difficult process of earning the rank of Eagle Scout.
“Years ago [Joe] said that he wanted to be an Eagle Scout, and he stuck with it,” Thad said. “He took the initiative and did it on his own. It shows commitment and a sense of maturity.”
Joe, who is in the process of applying to college, said being an Eagle Scout could help him stand out among other applicants, which is just another reason he pushed himself to earn the rank.
“I feel very proud. This is something not many people achieve,” he said. “It took about a year and a half to complete the project and all the merit badges [necessary to achieve the Eagle Scout rank]. It’s a statement, and it shows me that I have determination and perseverance.”