West Orange teen soars with Eagle Scout garden project
| 7:53 p.m. July 22, 2015
WINTER GARDEN — While many teens likely were lounging poolside or spending a day on one of West Orange’s lakes last weekend, 15-year-old Ryan Behrle had his hands in the dirt.
Behrle, a member of Boy Scout Troop 6 in Dr. Phillips, along with about 15 of his fellow scouts and leaders, put in plenty of sweat equity July 18 as they constructed a learning garden for Matthew’s Hope Firm Foundation Preschool in Winter Garden.
The garden, Behrle’s service project to achieve Eagle Scout ranking, includes a paver patio and two elevated garden boxes. Behrle proposed the project in May and since then has spent much of his summer planning its construction.
After driving by the Matthew’s Hope location for years and wondering what it was, Behrle and his mother drove in one day to check it out. Following that visit, he brainstormed a few different ideas and finally settled on a garden.
“A lot of people don’t get the chance to help people like this; they usually just sit and watch,” he said. “It’s a good thing … that I can help people who are homeless and low-income.”
The preschool provides free or reduced-cost Montessori schooling for local children who are homeless or from low-income families. The garden will give the school’s 20 3- to 6-year-old children an opportunity to learn through hands-on discovery, teach the benefits of good nutrition and develop self-confidence and pride.
Matthew’s Hope Ministries founder Pastor Scott Billue said the garden is a welcome addition to the school.
“Clearly, he put a lot of thought into the process because he was able to build something that was suitable for small children,” he said.
Billue said children often will say fruits and vegetables come from Publix.
“This is going to be an opportunity to show young children where food comes from,” he said. “Him being able to build in preschool size is what makes it so very cool.”
Troop leader Scott Fetterhoff worked with Behrle for four years and has seen him take on the growing responsibilities of his role with the scouts.
“I know him to be a very excellent scout, excellent teenager, takes responsibility very well and takes his scouting career very seriously,” Fetterhoff said.
According to Fetterhoff, only 25 out of every 100 scouts will obtain their Eagle rank.
“That accomplishment means much more than any monetary gift or any other things that they might achieve along the way,” he said.
Ryan Behrle’s mother, Jayne Behrle, said she is proud of her son, who has been involved in scouting since the second grade.
“Scouts has been so valuable in so many ways,” she said. “He held a leadership position of assistant senior patrol leader for the troop, where he had to speak in front of the 80-member troop, conduct meetings, lead them and organize them.”
Learning the value of giving back and participating in community service, Ryan is quickly on his way to obtaining the prestigious rank. However, after completing the project, he will have to file a follow-up report, submit an application with reference letters and go through an extensive interview process before he is officially an Eagle Scout.
“I’m so proud he’s one of the few who has worked so hard to make this happen,” Jayne Behrle said.
The preschool is part of Matthew’s Hope Ministries, which fosters the physical, emotional and spiritual well-being of the homeless men, women and children of the West Orange community by meeting basic needs, developing skills and restoring dignity and independence.