Twenty-seven young men clambering around a rocky hillside Saturday in west St. Louis County with shovels, picks and wheelbarrows to repair the home of Kestrel Falcons had an interesting leader: 16-year-old Life Scout Erik Veenstra.
On this cold, damp morning, the group worked side-by-side at The World Bird Sanctuary in Valley Park, MO, to move rocks and mix concrete.
As a requirement of earning the Eagle Scout rank, Veenstra must oversee a project that provides a meaningful service to members of his local community. Of all the projects ideas that came his way, Veenstra said he felt the Falcon-related one would provide the best and most lasting benefits.
The project is to repair a 10-year-old structure, called a “mew,” by elevating the wood frame from its damaged foundation and replacing it with a steel rebar reinforced concrete block wall. Its wooden frame then needed to be reattached to the new foundation.
The World Bird Sanctuary is headquarters for a combination of rescue, rehabilitation, research and education, particularly for birds of prey. The organization's mission is to help preserve the earth′s biological diversity, and to secure the future of threatened bird species in their natural environments.
The Kestrel Falcons that are housed in this structure are not only propagated to increase their numbers, but also travel the country as part of the sanctuary group's educational program.
Veenstra enlisted the help of local hardware store staffs for some of the supplies as well as monetary donations from the troop, friends and family. He also provided lunch for the crew, consisting of pizza and cold drinks.
Veenstra learned many of his leadership skills from attending and staffing National Youth Leadership Training through the Boy Scouts of America and from the mentoring of Lee Holmes and Ed Kasper, the current and former Scoutmasters of Troop 603.
“Erik has done a good job of leading this project from start to finish," said Dan Northem, the adult leader overseeing this project who is a former drill instructor and retired Army engineer.
To learn more about The World Bird Sanctuary, visit the organization's website.