Scouts BSA Troop 366 Life Scout John Groefsema, right, stands (socially distant) with Martha Pierce, Tall Oaks Camp and Conference Center executive director, as he presents his Eagle Scout patio project to her July 3 at the conference center in Linwood, Kan. Groefsema and a team of volunteers installed a patio with picnic tables, with a sunshade to be added later this month, for his Eagle Scout project. Submitted photo by Sarah Groefsema

Katie Peterson | Staff Writer

Scouts BSA Troop 366 Life Scout John Groefsema, 14, is on his way to becoming an Eagle Scout as he prepares to finish his Eagle Scout project at the Tall Oaks Camp and Conference Center in Linwood, Kan.


On July 1 and 3, Groefsema, with the help of 12 fellow Scouts and five adults, put in a 400-square-foot paver patio, built six 6-by-4-foot picnic tables and will install an overhead sunshade July 19.

Scouts BSA Troop 366 Life Scout John Groefsema places the final paver in his Eagle Scout patio project July 3 at Tall Oaks Camp and Conference Center in Linwood, Kan. Groefsema and a crew of volunteers installed a patio with picnic tables, with a sunshade to be added later this month. Submitted photo by Sarah Groefsema


“I was thinking about when I would go there for camp. The dining hall was really cramped with a lot of people, so I thought it would be a good idea to give them some more space,” Groefsema said. “I hope it will give them another place for them to do classes or have somewhere else to hang out instead of mainly in the sun.”


Martha Pierce, Tall Oaks Camp and Conference Center executive director, said Groefsema’s project will help a lot.


“Tall Oaks has a full-service dining facility that provides three meals a day to our groups. Throughout the summer, we serve a variety of faith-based camps as well as muscular dystrophy, autism, sickle cell anemia, diabetes, and foster children. When the camp is full, 125-175 people, the dining hall has to serve in shifts,” Pierce said. “John attends the diabetic camp and noticed the crowds. This outside dining area will certainly help there. It will provide seating for an additional 30-50 people, extra gathering space and even be a craft area.
“When John and his family first came to me, I had a bit of doubt that he could accomplish this dining area. It’s a pretty big project, but as we talked and planned, I realized that John is very organized and talented and has the full backing of many wonderful family members and friends,” she said. “Even when COVID reared its ugly head, John persevered.”

Liam Mandeville, Joseph Zoch and Archer Swienton place a 12-foot beam in a three-foot-deep hole while working on a patio area July 3 at Tall Oaks Camp and Conference Center in Linwood, Kan. Scouts BSA Troop 366 Life Scout John Groefsema and volunteers installed a patio with picnic tables, with a sunshade to be added later this month, for his Eagle Scout project. Submitted photo by Sarah Groefsema


COVID-19 and other obstacles did cause certain parts of Groefsema’s project to be adjusted, but he made it work.


“I had a fundraising plan, but COVID changed that, so I wrote letters and e-mails to request funding from everyone I knew,” Groefsema said. “I explained what the project was for and the amount needed, and I talked to different home improvement stores to get different deals to help lessen the cost as well.”


The project was also rescheduled twice. His original goal was to finish it in April but social distancing because of COVID didn’t allow that. Then, the new date, June 27, was canceled because of thunderstorms. Though there were struggles, when the day finally came, Groefsema said it went well.


“(The volunteers) came and paid attention and did what they were asked, and they really did work hard on the project,” Groefsema said. “It was fun to work with the Scouts.”
Troop 366 Scoutmaster Gary Rowley said he was impressed with how Groefsema dealt with the challenges.

Scouts BSA Troop 366 Life Scout John Groefsema delivers a safety brief, as he did every day before work began, as he and a team of volunteers begin working on his Eagle Scout project July 3 at Tall Oaks Camp and Conference Center in Linwood, Kan. Groefsema and his crew installed a patio with picnic tables, with a sunshade to be added later this month. Submitted photo by Sarah Groefsema


“John’s ability to adapt to all those challenges and others is a testament to this young man’s leadership, determination and resourcefulness that I hope all of our younger Scouts recognize and aspire to emulate,” Rowley said.


Groefsema’s father, John Groefsema, said he was proud of his son.


“He did a fantastic job. Once it came time for thought to inception and then the planning and the execution, he really stepped it up,” he said. “He was apprehensive at first when we went (to Tall Oaks) and pitched the idea, but then just his confidence grew over it. It was really great watching him last week. He knew the plan and he knew how to direct people.”
Pierce said she was proud to have worked with Groefsema.


“He has proven he is a true Eagle Scout in every sense of the title,” Pierce said. “He has communicated regularly and well, planned and organized every detail, and been a positive influence with every person here.

Connor Teeter and William Schmidt rake sand over PVC pipes to make a level base for a patio while assisting Scouts BSA Troop 366 Life Scout John Groefsema with his Eagle Scout project July 1 at Tall Oaks Camp and Conference Center in Linwood, Kan. Submitted photo by Sarah Groefsema


“As I retire and leave Tall Oaks at the end of July, this project has been an encouragement,” she said. “The pavilion will be used by people of all ages and stages for years to come.”

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