More than just the promise of warmer weather has Gloucester Township Senior Campus I residents hoping for a short winter.
Thanks to Joseph "JJ" Connell III and his Boys Scouts Troop 811 family, the Senior Campus I residents are now looking forward to partaking in plenty of new activities in their courtyard once spring hits.
The Boy Scouts recently completed Connell's Eagle Scout project, which was to build garden boxes, horseshoe pits and a bocce court—all of which are accessible by wheelchair—on the Gloucester Township Housing Authority property located off Woodbury Turnersville Road, in the township's Lakeland section.
"Our seniors really appreciate it," Housing Authority Executive Director Roy E. Rogers said on Wednesday. "This is their home. There are 75 apartments here, and this will give them some good recreational opportunities where they won't have to leave the site."
The group that helped Connell complete his Eagle Scout project consisted of roughly 18 Boy Scouts and eight adults, including Connell's father, Joe.
They began building the garden boxes, horseshoe pits and bocce court the weekend of Nov. 10-11, following extensive preparatory and design work by Joe Connell, who is an engineer, and JJ Connell, and completed the work last weekend.
"I feel good giving back to the community," JJ Connell, a Blenheim resident and Triton Regional High School senior, said. "I've done a lot for the troop, and I wanted to give something back. Just to get the Eagle Scout is a really good achievement."
In all, the project took 450+ man hours to complete, according to the Connells.
"What we have found is that this is the biggest Eagle Scout project in South Jersey history. We believe it is the biggest in New Jersey history, both in dollar amount and hours spent. ... It was a project that frankly I still feel should've been two to three separate Eagle Scouts given the amount of work that was put in."
Joe Connell credited the Chews Landing fire station-based Boy Scouts and their families for seeing to it that the work was completed before the winter sets in—and before JJ turns 18 in February, when he can no longer be a Boy Scout and, therefore, would be ineligible to complete his Eagle Scout project.
Connell's Eagle Scout project was a big win for Gloucester Township Housing Authority, which covered supply costs but saved big time on labor.
"We probably could've built one of these projects this year and then maybe another one two years from now. But we get all the facilities at once, and save enough money," Rogers said. "Every dollar we can save means that we don't have to increase the rent for the seniors."
The Housing Authority is looking forward to welcoming Troop 811 back in the spring for Michael Garber's Eagle Scout project. Garber plans to install a paver patio behind the Senior Campus I community room to earn his badge.