Mathew Swartwout, ETHS senior and Paul D’Agostino, superintendent of parks, forestry and facilities management, discussing the shelter rehab project.

The Lighthouse Beach Picnic Shelter has been transformed thanks to Matthew Swartwout, a senior at Evanston Township High School. His Eagle Scout project was the rehabbing of the Picnic Shelter.

He is a member of Boy Scout troop 929, which meets at Haven School. Matthew has been involved with scouting since first grade, as a Tiger Scout, and worked his way earning badges through Wolf, Bear, and Webelos.

This project took place on June 10 from 3-5pm and June 11 from 8am to 5pm.

Eagle Scout is the highest rank attainable in the Boy Scouts of America. Matthew explained that organizing his Eagle Scout project took about one year. He began his project by emailing Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, who put him in contact with Paul D’Agostino, superintendent of parks, forestry and facilities management. Matthew and Mr. D’Agostino met at the shelter last fall to discuss his project. Matthew also worked with his advisor, Mr. Doug Hood, a leader in Matthew’s troop and also a building contractor who was instrumental in assisting with the write-up of the project.

In addition, Mr. D’Agostino helped Matthew to make contact with Ms. Julie Cutter, founder of Noah’s Playground for Everyone, who was more than willing to fund the project. Because of her generosity, Matthew did not need to solicit additional donations. Volunteers were contacted by email but Matthew also reached out to his friends, many of whom, like Matthew, are involved in scouting. 35 students and 10 adult volunteers worked for various amounts of time over the two day period.

Matthew said that he had used the shelter many times over the years with different community groups and saw it regularly when going to the beach. When he thought about Eagle Scout projects that would benefit the community, rehabbing the shelter came to mind, especially after all the other work was done at the beach. Matthew feels that this project will benefit Evanston by keeping the shelter useful for many years.

In Matthew’s opinion, the shelter is a unique asset for the residents of the Evanston community. Completed, the shelter should require very little maintenance for years to come, and can be used by all residents of Evanston.

The main challenge, Matthew said, was the write-up for the Eagle Scout project. The requirements for it are very specific, such as earning a number of merit badges as well as service and leadership activities all demanding much detailed writing – by far the most time-consuming and the most difficult part of the project. Matthew explained that he went back and forth with his Scoutmaster three times before the project went to the Northeast Illinois Council District and then twice with the same District before it was approved. The final version of the written project was 40 pages.

The skills scouting promotes are skills that every person should have, Matthew said. He feels that the Boy Scouts really shaped who he is today. The leaders have been his role models, especially his Scoutmaster, Mr. Brian Fero. Matthew said the amount of time Mr. Fero has given up to take scouts camping or to help with an Eagle Scout project is second to none. “Without scouting, Matthew added, there are many experiences that he never would have had.”

Mr.D’Agostino said that the new tables at the Lighthouse Beach Picnic Shelter will be installed in a few weeks.