Jeremiah Soto, a Freeport High School senior and member of BSA Troop 300 in Hempstead, needed a project to earn his Eagle Scout badge.
A tidy one-story building at the foot of S. Ocean Avenue in Freeport needed a facelift.
The two came together when Jeremiah, 17, learned that the building, which houses the headquarters of American Legion William Clinton Story Post 342, had water damage to boards covering its front wall.
“The Troop 300 scoutmaster, Nsikak Ekong, let us know that there is a Legion post here that had work that could be done,” Jeremiah told the Herald, while on a ladder yanking nails out of a weathered board last weekend. His brother Joshua, age 15 and also a Freeport High student, was handing him different-sized tools as he worked.
“So I reached out to the Post 342 commander,” Jeremiah continued. “Then I came over here to look at the place and I saw that the front wall was kind of weathered down, and I thought, I could take that off and replace it and repaint it.”
It was an idea whose difficulty fit the scope of an Eagle Scout project., as explained by Charlie Hart, a retired Rockville Centre Scoutmaster.
“I hang with Troop 300 at St. George’s Church in Hempstead a lot,” said Hart. “I’ve been there since Jeremiah was about 10. The important part of the project is that he plans it, and he figures out how to execute it. But also, the project is supposed to teach him that there are things bigger than you, and he’s got to get them done. He’s got to get other people involved.”
An Eagle Scout must maintain a binder in which every hour spent on the project is meticulously recorded: hours spent on assessing the materials and person-hours needed, recruiting help from other Boy Scouts, parents, and friends, managing the roles of all the helpers, and actually completing the nitty-gritty work of the project itself. All of it, including the documentation submitted to the BSA officials, must be completed before the Scout’s 18th birthday.
“The hardest part of this project was finding exactly the tools and materials we need,” said Jeremiah, “and making sure everybody helping me has something to do.”
Across two weekends, he has commanded a group of about 10 fellow Troop 300 members, including his brother Joshua, and five adult supervisors.
“We spent about two hours the first night just staring at this wall and poking around,” said Hart. “The first real problem we had was figuring out how to do the demolition because there’s a million nails. You can see where we chewed away at some of the wood, trying to get the nails out, but they’re really in there well. This is exterior, very heavy plywood and we’re pulling out nails that are four inches long.”
Once the demolition is complete, the windows will be boxed with a composite of wood and plastic that will stay permanently white and never need painting. The rest of the wall will be exterior plywood, which will be painted.
As the two boys wrestled with removing the boards, Post 342 Commander Coy Richardson partnered with Hart to safely extract an exterior electrical outlet from the boards and the wall insulation.
“When this building was first donated to us,” Richardson said, “the floor was covered with rubble and broken glass.” He and the other members of Post 342 cleared the debris and turned the structure into a comfortable large meeting room. Windows in three walls allow light to play across the cream-colored walls and compact kitchen area. A tidy green yard at the rear of the building contains a neatly designed storage shed.
Renaye Soto, the boys’ mother, arrived to help. Quickly a workflow developed among mother and sons, with Jeremiah at times on the ladder, at times on the ground. He would wrench a board a couple of inches away from the wall, and wait while Renaye and Joshua pounded the board back against the wall, forcing the nails to stand up from the board’s surface. Jeremiah then dragged the nail from the board using the fork of a crowbar.
“This project will help me in case my future house gets broken down,” Jeremiah said. “I feel like it’s helping me learn problem-solving skills, learning how to find an issue and how to solve the issue.”
He plans to start college in the fall at either Nassau Community College or Farmingdale State College.
“I’m majoring in cybersecurity,” Jeremiah said.