Dec. 25 , 2006

Eagle Scout project both a spiritual and practical goal

By Roz Kohls
Staff Writer

Preston Johnson, 18, achieved the rank of Eagle Scout at his Court of Honor Nov. 2 at Evangelical Lutheran Church of Cokato. The enthusiasm, passion, enjoyment and leadership he experienced on the way toward becoming an Eagle Scout began long before that, though.

Johnson’s project for attaining the honor was renovating a recreation room for Splash Ministries, a non-denominational Bible camp in Bemidji.

Not only was the rec room selected because it was dilapidated, dull and in need of repair, but also the camp was important to Johnson on a spiritual level. Johnson, a member of Evangelical Lutheran Church, attended the camp himself. Its ministry to junior high age students deepened his faith, he said.

Johnson wanted his project to be a challenge, but at the same time, “something worthwhile for somebody,” he said.

Johnson was gratified when he saw the campers reaction to the renovated room. He happened to be sitting in the finished rec room in June 2005 when the new and returning campers blasted through the door, and into the room for the first time. They gazed in wonder at the matching color scheme and furniture arrangement.

“It looks so cool in here. It’s so different,” they said.

Johnson planned to paint the hallway leading to the room and the four walls in the room itself with coordinating shades of blue. He also wanted to seal the floor with a high quality treatment and install a vinyl room edging.

Johnson replaced a door and finish two others, replaced a window, design and built shelving to store games, decks of cards and other supplies.

Johnson made the seating in the room much more inviting and functional than what was there before, he said.

Johnson built a coffee table and two end tables, and purchased a round table and eight chairs for the room.

“We incorporated them into the new design,” Johnson said.

Johnson figured he would need approximately $1,700. He asked individuals, businesses and organizations connected to the facility for donations. Johnson also planned and carried out a coffee fellowship at his church.

He was able to raise $1,527, but with a donated couch from Countryside Furniture of Cokato and donated molding for the baseboards, he was able to get the project completed.

The most challenging part of the project was planning it when the camp was four hours away. Johnson couldn’t just jump in a car and drive to Bemidji every time he wanted to measure something, he said.

He still enjoyed putting it all together, however. “I was enthusiastic going up there,” Johnson said.

The best part of the renovation, though, was working with the people who volunteered, he said.

Right from the start, when he first proposed the project to the camp’s director, Kelly Joyaksich, she was a source of wisdom and encouragement, he said.

Safety was an issue because the project required some use of power tools. Johnson decided that only those 18 and over would use them. Anyone who refused to follow proper precautions would be asked not to complete the task, he said in his service project plan.

People accepted his proposals for help with open arms, he said. The volunteers from friends and family donated 330 hours to renovating the room. Johnson’s primary responsibility was to lead, but he enjoyed their camaraderie immensely.

“We worked so well together,” Johnson said.

Once the project was complete, he also had to fulfill numerous scouting requirements. His scoutmaster, Tim Steuck of Dassel helped keep him on track for Eagle Scout. Later, he faced a board of review Aug. 16. The board consisted of teachers, friends from church and scout officials who asked him questions.

“I had to prove myself, so to speak,” Johnson said.

Johnson’s next goal is to attend Concordia Moorhead and major in communications. He is leaning toward radio journalism as a career someday, he said.

Johnson is the son of Kathy Johnson of Cokato and Brad Johnson, now in Arizona.

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