Rockport Boy Scout puts community first via Eagle Scout project

Posted:  Thursday, August 10, 2017 - 9:30am
Share: 

CAMDEN — A Rockport teen working toward his Eagle Scout badge decided to put community first when choosing the requisite project to obtain the highest rank issued by the Boy Scouts. Inspired by a photo he saw online, 16-year-old Zachary Dorr, of Rockport, created and installed three Little Free Pantries modeled after the increasing popular concept of Little Free Libraries. Each pantry box is stocked with nonperishable food items and toiletries that are free for the taking by those who need them.

On Sunday, August 6, the pantries were installed in three locations: The First Congregational Church, 55 Elm Street in Camden; The American Legion, 91 Pearl Street in Camden; and the Masonic Center, 361 Main Street in Rockport. By Tuesday, August 9, the Little Free Pantry at the First Congregational Church in Camden was about half empty, Dorr said as he and his mother, Tracy Hebert, restocked it. They had yet to check the two other locations. Dorr added that he is hoping that the project will grow through the community.

"When I saw the pantries, it really clicked that this would be a good project that would really help people," Dorr said.

While the intent of the project is to show leadership, Dorr said that was not what he was thinking about when he began work on the Little Free Pantries.

"I wasn't thinking about the goal of the project as much as I was thinking about wanting everyone to be able to get what they needed," he said.

Dorr explained that the project is part of a multi-part process required to advance to the rank of Eagle Scout. At age 16, Dorr said he is "about in the middle" age-wise for scouts who seek the Eagle Scout badge, though scouts have until they turn 18 to do so.

Dorr is a member of Boy Scout Troop 200 which is sponsored by the First Congregational Church, and he has been involved with the Boy Scouts since he joined as a Tiger Cub in first grade.

Obtaining the Eagle Scout badge involves executing a successful community service project, obtaining about a half-dozen letters of reference, and arranging a Court of Honor. The Court of Honor is a ceremony where advancing scouts are celebrated, Dorr and Hebert explained. Typically, they are held to celebrate numerous scouts, but with achieving the rank of Eagle Scout, the ceremony will be all for Dorr, including the responsibility of arranging it.

Dorr and Hebert said that the little pantry project got underway in early February, and that it has posed more challenges than Dorr initially anticipated. A few of the locations he originally selected turned him away.

Overall, he is pleased with the outcome.

"I think the problem with some locations was that they thought my project was to replace [services they already offer], I looked at it as lending support," he said. Dorr also remarked that he selected locations based on zoning and permitting, knowing that the requisite process might delay the completion of his project.

"[The locations of the pantries are] close to each other, but in popular places that didn't need a permit," he explained.

All of the materials used in the Little Free Pantries were donated, including the weather and animal-proof plexiglass used in the construction of the doors. The boxes are about 22 inches deep, 36 inches high, and 30 inches wide. They sit atop posts that Dorr said go approximately two feet into the ground in order to make them sturdy year-round. If the latch is used properly, Dorr believes that the boxes will remain secure and protected from the weather as they are designed to do.

"We had to play with the size in our kitchen a bit, we wanted to figure out what would fit, where to place the shelf, all of that," Hebert said. She added that boxes of cereal can fit in the pantries when placed horizontally.

The items in the pantries vary, and Dorr said he worked to stock them with the hot weather in mind. Non-perishable foods, crackers, cereal, and even toiletries such as toothpaste and toothbrushes are among the items that the pantries presently contain.

Dorr explained that scouts are not allowed to use power tools, so his father, a former Scout Master, assisted with the construction while Dorr oversaw the project. The initial items used to stock the boxes were donated by the family of another boy scout as they prepared to move. Dorr envisions the community thinking of the Little Free Pantries in various situations, he cited grocery coupons that often go unused.

"I'm hoping people will think to buy extras, or to use a coupon that might be for something they don't like and donate it to the pantries instead. It's a way to help others and not let food go to waste," he said.

The scouts in Troop 200 are aware of the project, and they have been encouraged to bring in non-perishable goods and toiletries when attending a scout meeting. Hebert said that if people have appropriate items to donate that she and Dorr "will gladly pick them up."

They added that members of the public are strongly encouraged to place appropriate donations in the pantry boxes, and that they hope this organic approach will begin to get the community involved.

Dorr stated that he is getting the word out via flyers and the popular local Facebook group Midcoast Message Board. An initial post on the Midcoast Message Board garnered nearly 400 "likes" and lots of "very supportive” comments.

Hebert stated in an August 7 news release that the pantries will be beneficial to those around them 24 hours a day. The pantries are open and there is no need for an application, the project was designed solely to help those in need.

"If you find yourself with extra food or wanting to make a difference, please drop donations off directly at the Little Free Pantry of your choice," Hebert stated in the release. Both Hebert and Dorr emphasized the need for community support in order to keep the pantries going.

"I'm really hoping people will continue to work on this for the future," Dorr said. He acknowledged that it would not be "his" project forever, though he intends to continue tending the boxes even after he obtains his Eagle Scout badge, which he hopes will occur this autumn.

"If it works for the community, it works for me," Dorr said of his project.

For more information on Little Free Pantry visit littlefreepantry.org, to contact Dorr and Herbert please do so via email at tracydhebert@gmail.com.