DRACUT — Fifteen toddlers or preschool-aged children from local families in need are now sleeping comfortably in new beds.
Their beds are constructed of real wood — furniture-grade knotty pine — and made to fit their pint-sized forms perfectly. While slumbering in those new beds, a handmade quilt keeps the little ones comfortable and warm.
The colorful quilts are courtesy of Norma Taplin, organist at Christ Church United and owner of Taplin Farms. But the beds are the result of an impressive Eagle Scout project recently undertaken by her 15-year-old grandson, Jon Couture. A sophomore at Dracut High School, he has been member of Troop 80 since he was 11, and now an Eagle Scout candidate. The beds were given to the Lowell Wish Project, which distributed all 15 to families in need of the furniture.
Taking a break from tending to the crops he is growing as part of the Worlds PEAS Cooperative, Couture shared some words about his Eagle Scout project — one that he chose specifically because it was a construction project and it benefited needy families.
Q: How did you go about constructing 15 toddler beds?
A: In our garage, I instructed a team of 10 Scouts and adult volunteers. It was three days of building and another day to deliver the beds to the Wish Project. Eagle Scout projects are supposed to be mainly about leadership, so I can only direct during the project. I cannot even pick up a sander. They all kept me on my toes to make sure I didn’t do any of the work. We made the pine headboards and footboards from rough- sown pine that was donated by Bob Rotondo (the Wood Man) of Methuen. We also had to build the beds in a way that not even a screwdriver was needed to put them together or take them apart, in case it was a single mother who did not have any tools. With money that was donated, I was able to buy special brackets that allowed the rails to be attached to the headboard and footboard without tools.
Q: What will you take away from this experience?
A: What I’ve learned through the leadership of this project is how to direct others to achieve a greater goal. I could never have done this project alone. I also definitely liked seeing the faces (at the Wish Project) when they saw the beds and also the quilts and quillows (combination quilt and pillow) that my grandmother made and donated. They are hoping the beds can be redonated to other families when the families do not need them any longer. They are not owned by the families who receive them; they are just loaners.
Q: Do you feel you made an important contribution to the Wish Project?
A: I do. Mostly because at the Wish Project they already had a list of 14 people who needed the beds. When I donated them, all 15 went out immediately. They didn’t sit in a warehouse for any amount of time. I’m very glad they were used and appreciated.
Q: When do you officially become an Eagle Scout?
A: This September, after the approval process and review. Before doing the project, I had to have it approved by my adviser, Mr. (Robert) Goulet, then the Scoutmaster (Jeff Ross); then the committee chairperson, Mr. (John) Fitzpatrick and the review board, then the district commissioner.
Once it’s finished, it goes through a second approval process (before becoming an Eagle Scout).
Q: Does this experience make you want to do even more outreach in the future?
A: Yes. I would like to continue whatever I can to help local charities. Through my actions, I’ve caused people to feel great joy and that is definitely an inspiration to want to do more. It added to my feeling of appreciation, and knowing that it was for needy kids really made a difference for me and everyone else on the project.