Boy Scout Dan Weber was at church one day last June, when he saw an announcement in the bulletin at River Forest’s St. Vincent Ferrer Church. The announcement was a call for landscaping volunteers to help beautify the grounds of Catholic Charities’ West Suburban Regional Office, located at 1400 S. Austin, in Cicero.

“I thought, ‘hey, I’m looking for a project,'” said Weber. A scout since childhood, he was working toward the rank of Eagle Scout, which requires community service. Weber met with staff at Catholic Charities and learned that children in the after-school program at the Cicero site needed a safe, clean, inviting place to play.

Weber consulted with his Eagle Scout mentor, and came up with a plan. “The hardest thing was to get donations. I went from store to store,” he recalled. One store came through in a big way. The Lowes home improvement store, located at the Brickyard Mall in Chicago, donated all the materials he needed: 20 bags of mulch, 20 bags of manure, and in Weber’s word, “tons” of plantings. “We really couldn’t have done it this fast without them,” Weber said.

Another large donation came from Kelty Lawn Care, a River Forest business, which cleared out some shrubbery to increase the open space in the yard.

Weber’s steady persistence was also a factor in the project’s quick completion. He solicited parishioners from St. Vincent Ferrer, 1515 Lathrop Ave., for donations and received cash as well as some items, like a picnic table and the popular “corn hole toss” games (consisting of wooden targets and corn-filled bean-bags) that the children will play with in the yard. The cash donations will go toward ongoing care of the garden, which Weber designed to be low-maintenance. He researched hardy, perennial plants and those that would be child-safe.

Sept. 22 was “D (for dig) Day.” Weber and a group of volunteers from St. Giles parish, along with some of Weber’s friends, arrived at the small backyard, armed with rakes, shovels, and garden gloves.

“It felt pretty good. It’s been a long, tiring trip but it’s been worth it,” Weber said as he took a short break. “What Catholic Charities does for the neighborhood is just phenomenal.”

Weber’s mom, Eleonore, was part of the volunteer group. “He has had many challenges in his life,” she said. “This is a positive.” Weber’s father is deceased and his scouting activities have provided him with male role models, like those who came to help out with the garden. Eleonore also commented that while the yard will certainly be more beautiful, the real beauty of the project is the effect it will have on the children in the after school program. “This will become a more recreational, relaxing environment for them,” she said.

A student at St. Ignatius College Prep in Chicago, Weber is considering a Jesuit institution for college. Weber’s mother sees his Eagle Scout project as a good example of what the Jesuits teach. “The Jesuit motto is ‘Men and Women for Others,'” she said. “It’s part of their religious education.”

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