Eagle Scout project benefits South Kitsap Helpline Food Bank

Three new storage tables fit with food bank’s new self-help layout

PORT ORCHARD — Thanks to a Boy Scout’s initiative and perseverance, South Kitsap Helpline’s Food Bank now has a proper place to display fresh fruit and vegetables as clients walk through the building to collect food items for their meals.

Garrett Mueller, a 17-year-old Port Orchard resident and student at Vashon High School, has been working to meet the requirements he needs to achieve the status of Eagle Scout. Needing a community service project, he reached out last year to Jennifer Hardison, executive director of South Kitsap Helpline.

“Garrett contacted us about a project and we had been trying to figure out a better way to display the excess bulk produce we have available for our clients during late spring, summer and early fall,” Hardison said.

“Our gardens produce an abundance and we also receive produce donations from the community. Many have gardens and have a surplus of zucchini or apple trees that are producing more than they can use.”

Up to this point, Hardison said food bank volunteers had been putting out surplus produce into shopping carts or banana boxes in front of the food bank. The result, however, is an unsightly, disorganized mess, she said.

That’s where Garrett’s need for a project and the food bank’s need meshed into a single project.

Asking her what potential project he might create that would be beneficial to the nonprofit organization, Hardison suggested he tackle designing and constructing prep tables to hold fresh produce. With that direction, Mueller got to work.

He expected the project would take six months to complete, but as it happens so often with do-it-yourselfers, it took the high-schooler about twice as much time as he had anticipated. The project first required approval by Boy Scouts of America officials. When it received the stamp of approval, the senior got his building plans formalized and talked to a few area businesses that agreed to donate materials for the tables.

With materials lined up, Mueller set about measuring, cutting and assembling the tables in a friend’s workshop. The finished project — three tables built out of plywood that were sanded, primed and painted — is a welcome addition to the food bank, said Jeannette Murphy, Helpline’s assistant director.

“The tables are going to be beneficial to us,” Murphy said as the tables were unloaded by the Eagle Scout-to-be and his family. “This will provide us with a more organized system when clients come to pick up their food items.”

The produce tables, each fitted with sinks, fit nicely as part of the food bank’s reorganized facility and its do-it-yourself process, where clients are able to walk along the aisles and select foodstuffs of their choosing.

With the Boy Scout project completed and his Eagle Scout status pending, Mueller will soon redirect his attention this fall to college. Mueller is the son of Dr. Chris Mueller, a Port Orchard dentist, and like his father did, he will enter Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, this fall and begin studies leading to a career as a dentist.