Eagle Scout completes project to help people with disabilities

Erik Newland stands near the path around the Northport home for adults with developmental disabilities in Brooklyn Center that he designed for his Eagle Scout project. Newland completed the path with the help of volunteers, his family and scout troop sponsor Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd. (Submitted photo by Scott Newalnd).

Individuals living at Northport, a Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota home for adults with developmental disabilities located in Brooklyn Center, are looking forward to more afternoons spent at their neighborhood park and hosting gatherings in their backyard. That’s because an Eagle Scout’s final project brought philanthropy and service together to create a more accessible community.

At the suggestion of his pastor Erik Newland partnered with Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, his scout troop sponsor, and Lutheran Social Service to design a project that would fulfill his scouting requirements and a personal desire to help improve quality of life for people with disabilities.

With help from a grant from the church’s foundation, Erik began construction of a concrete pathway to form a direct route around the home, providing safe and quick access to the backyard and park. The $3,500 grant covered the entire cost of the project.

“When Erik approached me about an idea for his Eagle Scout project, I knew working with LSS would be a perfect fit for him,” said Pastor Deborah Samuelson. “Our foundation encourages stewardship and service and we wanted to do all we could to support his endeavor.”

Erik also received donations of building materials and the assistance from Boy Scout Troop six, his family, friends and congregation in the project.

“My grandfather uses a wheelchair, and the struggle to cope with it has been quite hard on him and our family,” Erik said. “Hearing about how hard it is for individuals at Northport to do something as simple as enjoy the backyard was sad. I’m happy that I could build this path for them and help improve their community.”

“This project was a huge undertaking and I am so impressed with Erik’s initiative,” said Per Chomdokmai, designated coordinator for LSS. “The new path and patio means that people we serve will be able to safely access their own backyard whenever they want to; an inherent part of the American culture and social experience.  We really appreciate the generosity of Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd and the support of Erik’s scout troop and family. Without any of them, this would not have been possible.”

The concrete pathway is expected to be completed before the end of October, and the crew will return in April to finish landscaping and plant flowers. Erik expects to receive the Eagle Scout honor at a recognition ceremony this winter.