Brad Ferris was on the scene of his future Eagle Scout service project three years ago when the idea for the job came to him.
“I’d always done a lot of my required community service hours at the animal shelter,” the Boy Scout at Decatur’s Troop 121 said “It’s what made me want to do my project here.”
Ferris is a frequent volunteer at the shelter, spending the time helping wash and care for the animals. It was there that then-Shelter Director Linda Bryan suggested Ferris build a shaded seating area and photo booth for the shelter’s play yard. Shelter volunteers operate an active Facebook page, which posts photos of the facility’s most urgent animals, but has, in the past, only had the corner of a building for a backdrop.
“There is a bench, but most people wouldn’t sit on it because it’s hot since it’s out in the elements,” Ferris said. “The project serves a dual purpose for the shelter as a dog photo booth. They asked if we could integrate that part in.”
But with the project thought-out and technical diagrams in hand, Ferris’ plans stalled.
“Another year went by as I was drawing up preliminary plans and getting the little things done,” he said. “We drew up the plans and gave them to [Bryan], and she called the county to make sure it was OK to do this and she was told absolutely not.”
After the letdown, Ferris said he checked with other entities, including the U.S. Forest Service office in Decatur. The office manages the Lyndon B. Johnson National Grasslands and is a common place for Scouts to pursue service projects.
I asked them if they had any projects, and they said, ‘Yes, we have many projects,'” he said. “That kind of disenchanted the idea of my project being unique.”
Ferris again checked with the county regarding his service project at the animal shelter. This time he was given a green light. Scouting rules require multiple Scout officials to sign off on a project and permission from the entity benefiting from the project. Ferris admitted he kept putting off some parts of the job.
“We got a new scoutmaster, and I had to get a new signature for that,” he said. “The director of the animal shelter changed, and I had to get a new signature for that. Because I was dragging my feet and all, I kept having to start all over.”
With the proper permissions finally acquired, Ferris started the build last weekend. Two composite waterproof pallets and 25 cedar slabs make up the finished project, which he built at his home over two work days.
He inspected several wooden pallets at home when considering materials for the project, but none met the necessary standards.
“None of them were level or in good shape,” he said. “They were rotted. We thought the only way it’s going to be in good shape is if we build it ourselves.”
Ferris, who also designs sets for the Decatur High School One Act play, said the structure was the largest he’d built.
“So I’d built things like this, but not quite to this extent,” he said. “Like I’d never built anything with a roof. I built a box. I’ve built boxes before, and this is pretty close to a box. This is the biggest thing I’ve ever built.”
The project was placed inside the fenced play yard Wednesday by Assistant Scoutmaster John Teague, who used a skid-steer to lift it over the fence. The final touches will be added this weekend.
One Scout’s mother made lettering, spelling “Wise Co. Animal Shelter” to be placed on the photo booth’s wall. After three years of planning, Ferris said he’s proud to see the project finally finished.
He’ll need to complete a board of review with several Scout leaders before his birthday in April to officially earn his Eagle Scout rank.
“This has been a long time coming,” he said. “I’m so glad to see it through.”