EAGLE COUNTY — Local Boy Scout Greg El-Bitar is one of the top 2 percent, and he joins the ranks of astronauts, presidents and captains of industry as an Eagle Scout.
Like anything worth having, he had to work at it. In El-Bitar’s case, that meant getting down on his hands and knees and replacing the floor in the St. Patrick Catholic Church Spirit Center and convincing other teenagers to do the same thing. He did that after a few years of working his way through the Scouting program one step at a time.
And that, he says, is Scouting’s most important lesson.
“It teaches you to set a long-term goal, then teaches you how to work toward it in incremental steps,” said El-Bitar, a member of local Boy Scout Troop 222, based in Eagle.
It’s a lesson that millions of young men hear, but almost none put into practice. Eagle Scout is the highest rank attainable in Boy Scouts of America. Of the tens of millions of young men who’ve been Boy Scouts, fewer than 2 million have earned that rank since it was introduced in 1911.
“Yes it’s work, but it’s also a lot of fun,” El-Bitar said.
Along his road to Eagle Scout he became a certified scuba diver, learned to shoot and acquired all kinds of outdoor skills. He also learned leadership and problem solving skills.
“These are skills that will help me be prepared for the rest of my life,” he said.
The Eagle Scout service project is designed to help any religious institution, any school or the community. The written project plan must be approved by the organization benefiting from the effort, the scoutmaster and troop committee, and the council or district before you start.
El-Bitar chose to replace St. Patrick’s Spirit Center floor.
“It was phenomenal. The carpet was really old and needed to be thrown away,” said Jeanmarie Angarola, St. Patrick’s office manager.
The Spirit Center is a meet and greet place where people eat, drink, mix and mingle. Along with all the mingling, they also make the occasional mess, and the carpet was showing its age.
“I can’t even tell you how disgusting it was,” Angarola said.
El-Bitar rounded up donations for materials and labor, food and everything they needed to do the job. Then he convinced other teenagers from Troop 222 to help.
They pulled up the old carpet and padding and replaced it with hardwood floor and some new carpet. It’s a total job of 2,000 square feet. It seems only right that one of the first events on that new floor was El-Bitar’s Eagle Scout Court of Honor, attended by more than 100 people.
Earning your Eagle
By the time Eagle Scouts reach that lofty rank, they will have earned at least 21 merit badges and have demonstrated Scout Spirit through the Boy Scout Oath and Law, service, and leadership, as well as leadership positions as the Scout progresses through the ranks. After all that, the Scout plans, organizes, leads and manages an extensive Eagle service project.
Scouting’s highest honor was created in 1911. The first Eagle Scout medal was awarded in 1912 to Arthur Rose Eldred, a 17-year-old member of Troop 1 of Rockville Center, Long Island, N.Y. Eldred earned his Eagle award even before the badge’s design was finished, so he had to wait until Labor Day, Sept. 2, 1912. Eldred’s son and grandson earned the Eagle rank as well.
In 1982, 13-year-old Alexander Holsinger, of Normal, Ill., was recognized as the one-millionth Eagle Scout. In 2009, Anthony Thomas, of Lakeville, Minn., was recognized as the two-millionth in 2009.
At the end of 2012, of the 83,486,083 young men who have been Boy Scouts since 1911, 2,209,000 Scouts had earned Eagle Scout, just more than 2 percent. That number appears to be growing; in 2012, 7 percent of the Boy Scout membership earned the Eagle award, 57,976.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.