James J. Benson III of Readington Township, a member of Boy Scout Troop 186 of the Hunterdon Arrowhead District in the Washington Crossing Council, has achieved the rank of Eagle Scout.
The Eagle rank is the highest achievement a Scout can earn. To attain the rank, a Scout must earn at least 21 merit badges, fulfill leadership roles and display outdoor skills, demonstrate by example the Scout Oath and Law, and complete a service project in the community.
“I have always had a passion for helping others, especially those that do not have enough to eat,” said Benson, who has been volunteering with Meals on Wheels in Hunterdon County since age 5. He began helping his mother deliver meals to Hunterdon County residents and now delivers on his own each week.
In keeping with this passion, Benson chose the Flemington Food Pantry as the recipient of his Eagle project. He designed and built four cold frame garden boxes for the Flemington Food Pantry vegetable garden. The boxes will provide shelter to protect the garden seedlings in the early spring before planting. Having a greenhouse-like environment for the seedlings will allow them to grow more plants than in past years, which will increase the amount of fresh produce that the pantry can distribute.
He said, “I began the project by researching cold frame garden box plans that were found on the internet. I could not find any that I felt would hold up to years of use or that had the features that would benefit the pantry’s needs. I created a design from scratch and then constructed a prototype box that was sturdy, insulated and topped with old house windows, which were donated to me by a community member, that I recycled and refurbished.”
Benson figured out what worked well and what did not work with the prototype box and went on to build three more boxes with the improved design.
He explained, “For each 3ft x 5ft x 3ft enclosed wood box, I used the best exterior-grade materials, such as stained, pressure treated wood, Benjamin Moore exterior window paint and rust-proof hardware. Also, to protect the windows, I covered them with custom cut metal wire fencing and created winter plywood covers held on by “L” brackets so that the fragile windows will survive the winter and not be at risk of breakage due to hail or debris that may fall on them.”
He also added features to the boxes that would make them more useful to the pantry, including a hook and latch for each window which will allow the windows to stay open when volunteers work in the boxes. To keep water from freezing on the recessed windows and possibly breaking them in the winter, holes were drilled through the wood for drainage. All of these design features will ensure the cold frame garden boxes will last for many years.
The recent Hunterdon Central Regional High School graduate is studying finance at the Fordham University Gabelli School of Business. He also is a maintenance worker for Readington Tewksbury Junior Baseball League and delivers food for DoorDash.
Troop 186 is chartered by the Three Bridges Reformed Church and has been serving youth and the community since 1949. The troop meets at the church located on Main Street in Three Bridges on Tuesdays during the school year from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Troop 186 belongs to the Hunterdon Arrowhead District of the Washington Crossing Council. For more information, email email@example.com.