Eagle project continues teen's fight against local hunger

Becoming an Eagle Scout was never really part of Jack Otten's plan.

"I never gave it much thought," Otten said. "I was just enjoying being a Scout."

But as he approached his final year of high school, the Hinsdale Central High School senior said earning Boy Scouting's highest rank suddenly seemed like a natural progression to his decade-long scouting career. So he set out in search of a project - a final step in every scout's journey toward the Eagle rank.

Otten said he knew almost immediately that his project would benefit the HCS Family Services food pantry and the people it serves. A longtime volunteer at the pantry and a member of the HCS Junior Board, Otten wanted his project to help alleviate some of the food insecurity that exists in DuPage County. He also wanted it to draw attention to the fact that food insecurity exists in and around Hinsdale - something he said many people still don't realize.

Working with HCS Executive Director Stan Cook, Otten decided to build two mobile collection bins that will allow people to easily donate food to the pantry. Each bright red bin is equipped with casters for easy portability, along with two placards with important information about HCS and its needs. One tells the story of HCS and why donations are needed. The other tells potential donors what specific items are needed to fill the pantry shelves and the cupboards of hungry neighbors.

Otten was familiar with the needs of the food pantry and its clients. But he wasn't as comfortable with the tools and skills it would take to build the two bins.

"This was a project bigger than I had taken on before," he said.

But an Eagle Scout project isn't meant to be completed alone. Like all aspects of Scouting, earning Eagle rank is about leadership, Otten said. The potential Eagle Scout is expected to organize his project and enlist the help of whatever volunteers or experts he needs to get the job done.

So on a sunny afternoon several months ago, Otten gathered with Eagle coach Shashank Upadhye, dad John and about a dozen fellow Scouts to turn a pile of wood and screws into tools for feeding the community.

"I learned a lot of skills working on these boxes," Otten said.

It didn't take long for Otten's contribution to start working.

When Jack and his dad delivered the completed boxes on a Saturday in November, the Memorial Building was not yet open for the day. They left a bin outside the building while picking up the second box from Hinsdale Covenant Church, home of Hinsdale Troop 8. When they returned to the Memorial Building just a few minutes later, someone had already dropped the first donation into the bin.

One box remains at the Memorial Building. The other spent a week at the Hinsdale Public Library and will likely make its way to various parts of the village, inviting people to make a donation and to learn a little about the needs of their community.

Author Bio

Sandy Illian Bosch is a contributing writer to The Hinsdalean