Last year, the Beaches Emergency Assistance Ministry (BEAM) received a call from Ben Black, a Ponte Vedra High School student, who was working on his final Eagle Scout project with Boy Scout Troop 277. Ben personally knew families who had been affected by the pandemic and wanted to help a local nonprofit assisting people in need.
After a conversation with BEAM food bank manager Meagan Anderson, Ben learned of BEAM’s need for equipment repairs and committed to renovating 17 BEAM food bank carts. Replacing the carts would cost the organization more than $10,000.
Ben got straight to work alongside his father, Geoff, picking up BEAM’s food carts for repairs and spending weeks alongside his family and friends in his garage, disassembling the carts to remove rust and putting them back together with new hardware and fresh paint.
“This repair project was definitely more challenging than what I first thought,” said Ben. “The materials needed for the carts were expensive, but I couldn’t believe how generous everyone was. From all the people that donated or participated in my fundraising efforts, to local stores like Proctor Ace Hardware and Sherwin Williams in Ponte Vedra, people were very generous and happy to help an Eagle Project. Neighbors and friends were also very generous during our ‘Fill the Carts’ food drive, and we were able to donate 920 pounds of food and toiletry items to BEAM, and I was really proud to be able to do that.”
By the time Ben and his team of volunteers dropped off the finished products, BEAM was astonished at the craftsmanship and time spent on making sure the carts were nearly brand new.
“Ben is an incredible young man, and for this Eagle Scout to take on such an extensive project is truly remarkable,” said Lori Richards, BEAM executive director. “Our food carts are the literal backbone of our emergency food service. Our team distributed over 1.1 million pounds of food from the BEAM Food Bank last year, and this will ensure that we continue to serve the influx of families seeking emergency assistance in our beaches area. We are forever grateful to Ben and his supporters.”
Eagle Scout is the highest rank attainable in the Boy Scouts of America program. The title of Eagle Scout is held for life, giving rise to the phrase ‘Once an Eagle, always and Eagle.’ Requirements for attaining this rank include earning a total of 21 merit badges, demonstrating Scout spirit, service and leadership. Also included in the requirements is development of an extensive service project that benefits the community or an organization other than Boy Scouting.
Ben went above and beyond to not only repair the carts and collect nonperishable food items, but he also hosted a virtual 5K race, raising funds to purchase the supplies to refurbish the carts and donating the excess – more than $1,000 – to further support BEAM’s programs throughout the pandemic.