2018-11-07 / Local News

Boy Scout creates garden for special-needs clients at The Commons

By JAYNE JACOVA FELD Voice staff

AGE: 17

HOMETOWN: VOORHEES

FAMILY: PARENTS DEBBIE AND JUD; SISTER LAUREN, 14

SYNAGOGUE: M’KOR SHALOM

FAVORITE SCOUTING ACTIVITY: CAMPING

FAVORITE SCHOOL ACTIVITY: PLAYING IN THE EASTERN DRUM LINE

Ever since programs for adults with special needs moved to The Commons at 1721 Springdale Road, educators with Jewish Family and Children’s Service have envisioned creating a garden in the courtyard. The idea was not only to teach clients how to plant and harvest fruits and vegetables and reinforce healthy eating habits, but also to eventually provide fresh produce for the Soups & Sweets culinary training program.

Now, thanks to Boy Scout Jacob Goldsborough, the dream has become a reality. Over two mornings this summer, the Eastern High School senior and his crew of enthusiastic scouts from Troop 70 constructed raised garden beds in an under-utilized patch of courtyard that will count as his Eagle Scout project.

Within days, participants of the To Our Positive Success (TOPS) adult day program got to work planting lettuce, spinach and other fall produce.

“It’s just wonderful,” said TOPS Supervisor Amy Block. “I have a few of them who want to get into the garden every day. It was such good timing when Jacob came along offering his services.”

As anyone with familiarity with scouting knows, Eagle Scout projects are massive undertakings designed as a culmination of a Scout’s leadership training. Some six percent of all Scouts reach Eagle Scout, the highest attainable rank.

The idea of helping people with special needs was especially appealing to Jacob, who was very close with his grandfather Steven Sloan, a retired special-needs educator in Gloucester Township. His mother Debbie Goldsborough followed in her father’s footsteps and teaches to a similar population at Lenape High School.

Although his grandfather passed away before the program came to fruition, he knew of Jacob’s plans, said Debbie. “He would just be so incredibly proud of it,” she noted.

Through conversations with Barbara Abrams, JFCS Special Needs director, Jacob’s garden project took root over the spring. Although Jacob does not typically gravitate towards construction projects—his hands are more attuned for use in playing musical instruments—he took it on. Using a large Boy Scout issued guidebook, Jacob spent months planning the garden and soliciting donations from local businesses, family and friends. Among benefactors, Leonberg Nursery in Moorestown came through with the soil. The wood was donated by Peter Lumber Company in Medford.

On a Friday morning in August, Jacob and his crew built the two beds. They filled it with soil the next day, racing to finish before it started storming.

“The rain held out until we were driving home,” he said.

On construction day, participants of TOPS happened to pass by. Many were excited by the prospect of having a garden and eager to watch the Scouts building the beds, Block noted. They showed it too by presenting Jacob with dozens of thank-you cards, including one from Brad, a TOPS participant who wrote: “We LOVE cooking with the vegetables that you planted for us. Make the community strong and never let that dream down.”

It was hard work, but well worth it, said Jacob.

“It was a fantastic project, and I couldn’t have asked for a better team,” said Jacob, who plays both trumpet and drums for Eastern musical ensembles. “It feels good to give back to the Jewish and special needs community.” .

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