Drew Sodergren, a junior at Haddam-Killingworth High School, is on his way to earning the highest rank a Boy Scout can achieve – Eagle Scout. Once he’s there the title is his for life; hence the phrase “Once an Eagle, always an Eagle."
The Killingworth Congregational Church recently approved Sodergren to move forward with his Eagle Scout project.
"Basically, outside the Killingworth Congregational Church there’s a Memorial Garden. There's a semicircle of 11 benches there right now for an outdoor worship center. The benches are rotting out and do not have any backs. They are from trees that were there on the property and are rotten and falling apart," explains Sodergren.
"I wouldn’t want to sit on them. I am going to be replacing the benches, beautifying the area, and getting rid of fallen trees, brush piles and branches."
Sodergren, a member of Troop 18 in Killingworth, is following in the footsteps of many scouts from the troop working on Eagle projects. He hopes to have the project finished by the end of the school year.
“Drew has grown up in our church and we are so pleased to see him on the verge of attaining such a high honor as that of Eagle Scout," said Rev. Martha Bays, minister of the church.
"Right from the beginning, Drew wanted to do something for the church for his project. He met with me and with one of our Trustees, Glenn Johnson. Rather than pushing something he had in mind, Drew listened very carefully to what we needed here.
“He is performing a wonderful service for us as we are using our beautiful outdoor Memorial Garden space much more frequently now. By cleaning it up and putting in new bench tops, it will be so much more enjoyable for all to use. The Memorial Garden itself, the outdoor chapel and the beautiful natural walking labyrinth are all important pieces of our ministry here at the Congregational Church in Killingworth, UCC.”
"I figured what better way to give back than going to the church that helps me out and supports the troop," said Sodergren who is a member of the church, which is also the Charter Holder for Troop 18.
Before getting started, Sodergren asked about what needed to be done and found a list of possible projects, including working on the pond, creating a rain garden, and redoing the benches. He liked the bench idea "because it really needed to be redone."
Drew met with a carpenter to go over design plans and then came up with a list of materials needed. in Madison gave him "a big discount on materials as well as an estimate of what it would cost," he said.
The next step was to raise money – roughly $500 is needed for materials. Drew's father gave him the idea to run a breakfast at church.
"We called it a Pancake Breakfast but it was pancakes, bacon, eggs, sausage, hash browns – basically a big brunch with at-will donations," Sodergren said.
The fundraiser was a huge success, with more than 70 people attending Sodergren was able to raise more money than needed. "I’ve got a little cushion room in case things go wrong or I need to buy something else."
"In a nutshell, it was pretty impressive how Drew took an entrepreneurial approach in order to raise funds to finance the breakfast so as to refurbish some work required at Church," Edmund L. Phelan said after attending the fundraiser.
"Drew also enlisted the help of dozen or so of his peers and a few adults to execute on his breakfast plan. It was great to play a small role in it. Drew did a spectacular job," he added.
There's still work to do. The materials have been purchased and Sodergren has recently started building the benches, which he plans to install soon.
Committee Chairman for Troop 18 Todd Blewett said that Drew and his family have been very involved in Scouts for years.
“He’s always been an active member and a great role model for the kids. I really like his project. It’s different," said Blewett.
Sodergren told Patch an Eagle Project "is supposed to be a leadership project where the Eagle Scout candidate is going to show responsibility and leadership and is supposed to benefit the community somehow.
"From the time you cross over from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts in fifth grade, the ultimate goal is to achieve the highest rank which is Eagle Scout. Only two percent of those who start scouting achieve the rank of Eagle Scout, so it’s a pretty prestigious achievement."
Friend and Troop 18 member Chad Golembeski added, “I've known Drew personally for about five years, and enjoyed his company on many backpacking and skiing trips with Troop 18. He has always and will be an exceptional person, living the scout law and oath on a day-to-day basis.”
Not only has Drew been inspired by his grandfather, parents, and others in the troop to work toward his goal of becoming an Eagle Scout, "it’s something I’ve always wanted to do," he said and added, "It looks good on resumes and for college. I’ve been doing Boy Scouts for six years and have been working towards this so you can’t just stop."