COLUMBIA — When Loyal Carpenter was 12, he helped his oldest brother, Noble, paint the siding on Rocheport City Hall.
Three years later, Loyal helped his middle brother, Ben, restore the historic brick walkway to the town’s community center.
Last year, it was Loyal’s turn to complete an Eagle Scout project. This family rite of passage ultimately resulted in a compost bin for the Community Garden Coalition’s garden outside the Family Health Center in Columbia.
The three-compartment compost bin was a welcome upgrade from the garden's old wooden pallets, where junk was often discarded, slowing down the decomposition process.
The Carpenter brothers’ father, Brent, never expected all three of his sons to achieve Eagle Scout rank when the oldest signed up for Cub Scouts in first grade.
All three brothers joined Troop 708, one of several Boy Scout units in Columbia. Every troop in the region is governed by The Great Rivers Council, whose jurisdiction covers central and northeastern Missouri.
Eagle Scout is the highest rank possible in the Boy Scouting program. Since it was introduced in 1911, more than 2 million young men have achieved the goal, including movie director Steven Spielberg, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, astronaut Neil Armstrong, basketball star Bill Bradley and documentary filmmaker Michael Moore.
Reaching the rank
Completing a service project is just one of several requirements toward attaining Eagle Scout rank, though it is regarded as the most daunting. According to Scouting.org, a Scout must "plan, develop, and give leadership to others in a service project helpful to any religious institution, any school, or your community.”
The project must provide a service to the community, as well as demonstrate the Scout’s responsibility as a leader. Projects aren't without their setbacks, however — a simple rain shower can extend a project for days. Cost can be a factor, as can the time commitment and the levels of approval for public works.
Chuck Hayes, who serves as Council commissioner for the program, said Eagle Scout projects often go unnoticed — even if they are standing in plain sight.
Many of the benches on the Katy Trail are Eagle Scout projects, as are the flagpoles near the Ashland Optimist Club and the playground stairs at Christian Fellowship School.
“Sometimes they do put plaques on projects, but like with the benches on the Katy Trail, people walk by them all the time and think the city does it — not really,” Hayes said.
Eagle Scouts throughout Boone County have completed 26 community service projects for religious institutions, schools and other community areas. YUFEI ZHANG/Missourian
While some Eagle Scout projects remain anonymous, the Carpenter brothers’ efforts are familiar in the small town of Rocheport. City Clerk Shirley Jenkins-Old recognized the family name instantly.
“The boys are so pleasant and so polite. It was very nice to be around them and to have conversations with them,” Jenkins-Old said.
Ben and Noble both received “thank you” letters from the town for their efforts, though there was a wider community response.
“We had people drop by and say, ‘Thanks, it looks great, we’re glad somebody is doing something,’” Ben said. “We even had a couple people come over and help us.”
Although Loyal’s project is located in Columbia, his contribution was not lost on residents of a larger city.
“Even during the planning process, I’d go out and take measurements, and they’d ask me about it," he said. "They’re really excited about it, and they’re actually using it as an educational tool to educate the gardeners.”
Maureen Coy, health educator for the city and member of the Community Garden Coalition, helped Loyal organize the project and said she is looking forward to using the bin when warm weather arrives.
“The moisture from the snow and ice of this winter are actually a needed component,” Coy said. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to use the first product of the compost this spring.”
The fact that three brothers achieved Eagle Scout status may be remarkable, but it fits the profile of Boy Scout Troop 708, which produces three or four a year.
Doug Callahan, Scout executive for the Great Rivers Council, said such success is not limited to Troop 708. Boys throughout the district logged 24,000 total service hours from Eagle Scout projects last year.
“The secret is directly related to volunteers willing to create a quality program,” he said. “Particularly here in Columbia, we have a number of excellent troops in this program.”
Brent Carpenter also cited adult leadership for the family’s Eagle Scout success.
“Each troop has its own culture in a way, if you will, and when we found that troop, there’s some very good people leading that, so we jumped in with both feet,” he said.
Brent became a volunteer leader himself, joining the group as troop treasurer. He started attending weekly meetings and participated in camping trips. He said Boy Scouts offered a great opportunity for the family as a whole. His wife, JoAnn, became Loyal's den leader when he was a Boy Scout and would drive the boys to and from their troop meetings.
“Every family gets committed to it in a different way. They have weekly meetings, and some families drop their boys off, and an hour-and-a-half later they pick them up,” Brent said. “In my case I didn’t want to do that — I wanted to figure out what the troop was doing.”
The paths taken by the three Carpenter brothers often intersect. Noble graduated from College of the Ozarks, a private four-year Christian university near Branson, in December, and Ben studies there now. As Loyal finishes his senior year at Hickman High School, the college is at the top of his list.
For Ben, it is just another testament to the bond he shares with his brothers.
“We all think the same way. We didn’t even have to talk much during projects,” he said. “I think all of us going to the same troop, and hopefully the same college, means we work well as a team, we understand each other.”
Supervising editor is Jeanne Abbott.