On a bright Sunday afternoon, a dozen Boy Scouts gather to enjoy root beer floats with the residents of Legacy at Bear Creek Assisted Living and Memory Care Center in Keller.
During the visit, Scout Brad Greer releases shiny orange, gold and silver koi into a new pond in the senior living community’s courtyard. While a small waterfall provides a soothing serenade, the fish dart around the bathtub-sized pond and several of the seniors draw close to inspect the pond’s new occupants.
Not far from the water feature, raised, redwood planter beds sport pots of white-, yellow- and rust-colored mums, gourds and other autumn beauties.
“I’m delighted about the pond and excited about the planter beds,” says Ginny Bower, a Legacy resident. As an active senior who takes frequent walks around the complex, she is clearly thrilled with the courtyard additions and the teens who have created them.
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The pond, planting beds and several other projects are all the result of the concerted efforts of aspiring Eagle Scouts in the Troll Patrol of Keller’s Troop 32. Over the last nine months, members of the troop have poured their energies into a variety of thoughtful “home improvement” projects for the benefit of Legacy’s senior residents.
Scout mom and Troll Patrol coordinator Mary Bellinger says the group’s involvement with the senior living community grew from an initial visit to the facility and some spontaneous discussions and brainstorming about features they could provide that would benefit the residents.
Director of Community Relations Karen Clark refers to the Eagle Scout projects and the relationships that have blossomed because of them as “a really cool intergenerational event.”
“I think it’s unusual for a patrol to be focused on one location,” Bellinger says. “It’s been a really good partnership.
The kids come back on a regular basis and see residents using their projects. It’s a very good thing.”
Karen Clark, the center’s director of community relations, says the way the Scouts have worked with residents is “a really cool intergenerational event.” Estimating the work they’ve done on various Scouting projects there would be worth thousands of dollars, she adds, “It’s just above and beyond what we imagined. We feel very blessed.”
Fish and Flowers
Greer, 14, was in charge of the pond. Nicholas Bellinger, 15, planned the raised planter beds. Joe Trenton, 14, organized the construction of eight benches and a shade structure. Greer and a number of other Scouts in Troll Patrol are Life Scouts (the second-highest rank) working toward becoming Eagle Scouts. When they start planning their projects, the Scouts handle all aspects of the implementation — research, planning, fundraising, purchasing materials and organizing volunteers.
Greer says it took two workdays just to dig the hole for the koi pond. The first day, they didn’t make much progress, but rain softened the ground and made the second day easier. They installed the pond liner and rocks along the bottom. Greer came back another day and built the waterfall using a pump and stacked flagstone.
“Hopefully, these fish will do well here,” he says as he watches them explore their new home.
While pursuing his ambitious project, Greer says he learned a lot about fish, and he enjoys sharing his newfound knowledge. For instance, he’s quick to tell listeners that koi grow to fit their ponds, so his little group won’t get very big. If they are well-cared for, he says, they will live 20 to 30 years — and some have been known to live to be more than 100.
A lot of residents have bad backs or are in wheelchairs. The raised beds make it easier for them to garden.
Aspiring Eagle Scout Nicholas Bellinger
Similarly, Bellinger learned a lot about construction with his Eagle Scout project. He says he was motivated to design the raised planter beds that sit about 3 feet off the ground when he heard that many of the residents used to be active gardeners, but could no longer work with plants at ground level.
“A lot of residents have bad backs or are in wheelchairs,” he says. “The raised beds make it easier for them to garden.”
His practical additions to Legacy’s outdoor environs are between the courtyard and an outdoor activity area behind the building.
Trenton’s project was constructing a 10-by-10-foot pergola and eight wooden benches. With an eye toward increasing comfort for his new elderly friends, he placed some of the benches near emergency exits — so residents would have places to sit if they were required to stay outside of the building for a time. Other benches are under the pergola behind the building, for a nicely shaded seating area for residents.
Troll Patrol Scouts also come to the center to teach residents about computer and cellphone technology — helping them search the Internet, text and set up Facebook pages.
He says his project took three days to build the benches and shade structure, one day to cut the wood and two days to assemble everything with a group of volunteers.
“I like the feeling of knowing if they have an emergency, they can have a place to go,” he says.
Troll Patrol Scouts also come to the center to teach residents about computer and cellphone technology and to help out in other ways. While building improvements and sharing the knowledge that comes so easily to them, the teens have established a special bond with the adults.
Greer says he assisted a senior in setting up her Facebook page. The woman was able to send her grandson “Happy Birthday” wishes and get an immediate response.
Bellinger says he helped some residents learn how to use their smartphones, from checking the time and date to making calls, sending texts and saving contacts.
Shirley Ferguson says some of the Scouts showed her how to find some interesting sites on the Web and how to use more features on her cellphone.
“I had so much trouble learning what to do, but the guys know everything about the phone and the computer,” Ferguson says. “They’re modern. I’m 76 and some here are in their 90s. We’re just not up on these things, and our kids and grandkids don’t always have time to teach us.”
A former school counselor, Ferguson is impressed by the Scouts’ good manners and eagerness to help.
In addition to the big projects and the technology training, Scouts have assisted with a facility carnival, helped residents make placemats to sell at a craft fair and have plans to make a music video with residents.
Carter Price, 13, says that helping residents has been a rewarding experience, as well.
“Everyone is friendly and grateful about what we do,” he says.
Bower enjoys the Scouts’ visits and appreciates their positive impact. “I’m just delighted to see them being nurtured in these ways and to see the smiles on the faces of residents,” she says.