TEMPLE TERRACE – Sixteen-year-old Robert Clements of South Tampa has vivid memories of his beloved grandmother, Marge Clements, during her final days at a hospice house just outside Philadelphia.
“One thing she really enjoyed was watching the birds outside her window,” said the Plant High School junior.
So when it came time for Robert – a member of Boy Scout Troop 53 that meets at Palma Ceia United Methodist Church in South Tampa – to start planning ahead for his Eagle Scout project, family members could almost predict the endeavor that was at the forefront of his mind.
And they were right. He hoped to add a little levity to the lives of patients and family members in the greater Tampa area facing trying end-of-life issues, as was the case for his grandmother.
His mission then was to build and bequeath birdfeeders to benefit bed-bound loved ones and their family members.
He contacted administrators at the Melech Hospice House, a facility in Temple Terrace for terminally ill patients. In no time at all he got the go ahead on his offer to fund, build and install several feathered-friend attractors around the perimeter of the building.
He then set about devising blueprints, researching costs, setting a budget and procuring donations from fellow church members, neighbors, friends and family.
Robert decided on 13 weather-resistant, multistyled metal birdfeeders and 10 eight-foot posts. His plans called for nine to hang singly on their respective posts, two to dangle together on another post, and two to be positioned on the branches of trees.
He estimated his cost of materials, including stain for the posts, at $789.
However, with some bargaining power he was able to narrow his cost to $613, $554 of which was covered by contributions. His parents, Joanne and Bob Clements, funded the balance.
The Melech staff and several families whose loved ones were at the facility on installation day purposely came outdoors to laud Robert and his selected group of Scout buddies who painstakingly placed the feeders in strategic spots throughout the campus.
“They said they were very nice and as we were leaving the facility I could see them walking around and enjoying them,” said Robert, who also noted they joyful accepted the responsibility of keeping each birdfeeder supplied with feed and water.
Robert admitted his leadership skills were lacking at the beginning of the project.
“During the first part when we were staining the posts I tried to be too hands on, but when it came to the installation I learned to delegate to other people,” he said.
His mom, who was on site along with his dad, said it was impressive to see the improvement.
“He really stepped up and delegated roles,” Joanne Clements said.
Janis Tucci, the Melech Hospice House manager described Robert as a “very thoughtful young man.”
“He was very organized and so focused on helping other people,” she said.
And in Tucci’s view, the birdfeeders have added a dimension that well fits the facility’s serene, mainly secluded environment.
“They have brought a lot of pleasure to our families. And the ducks from our pond must feel the same way because they have begun to feed under the birdfeeders,” she mused.
Robert, who along with several other Troop 53 Scouts devoted 234 hours to the project, is awaiting a review and anticipated approval of his project from Boy Scouts of America Gulf Ridge Council officials. He’s hopeful his Eagle Scout anointing will follow.
In the meantime, he keeps busy with his workload at Plant High, where his weighted grade point average is 4.1. He plans to go on to college but hasn’t yet decided whether he’ll major in engineering or some form of law.
“I have a wide range of interests,” he said.
Robert is also involved in DeMolay, a Masonic organization for young men between the ages of 12 and 21, and he’s a member of his school’s rowing team in which he recently earned third place in a national competition.
He admits it is often a challenge to juggle the demands of school work with all of his extracurricular activities.
“But it will pay off in the long run,” he said.
Joyce McKenzie can be reached at JoyceCMcKenzie@gmail.com.