Gillcrist is no stranger to the nearby memorial as his two grandfathers (one whom is his namesake), a grandmother, and a great uncle, who were all veterans, are remembered on the walls of Mt. Soledad National Veterans Memorial. Their memories made the service project extra special for him.
“I looked long and hard for a project that would be unique and qualify for my Eagle Scout Leadership Service Project,” Gillcrist said. “During my training runs up to Mt. Soledad, I saw these benches regularly and realized that they were in extremely poor condition.
“I thought to refurbish the seven benches that surround the Mt. Soledad cross would be a wonderful way to beautify the veterans memorial, give back to the community in which I live, and honor three of my grandparents and great uncle.”
The next step was to come up with a plan on how to accomplish his goal. In August of last year, Gillcrist teamed up with family friend John Wilding, of Wilding Construction Co., who would become the Scout’s project coach. Wilding and Gillcrist completed a feasibility study of the benches, decided on an approach, and then started to work on the logistics.
But before anything could be cut and dried, they needed approval from the City Parks and Recreation Department. Wilding helped put together a proposed project plan and Gillcrist presented it to the Parks and Rec staff. “They provided tremendous support and helped direct my planning efforts,” Gillcrist said. They also approved the project.
Gillcrist went to work raising funds – well, asking family and friends for cash. But in a stroke of good fortune, while checking out supplies at local stores, the Boy Scout landed a big fish. Ted Teran, general manager of the Dixieline Lumber and Home Center on Sports Arena Boulevard, agreed to donate the redwood and exterior stain for the initial prototype bench. While family and friends funded the balance of the project, Dixieline threw in all the redwood and stain required to finish.
Then the real work started with several sessions at Wilding’s workshop, where his team of Scouts and family supporters milled and sanded all of the bench planking. On March 6, with the assistance of his dad Jim, and Wilding, Gillcrist completed the initial prototype bench, which Parks and Rec inspected and approved.
“This was a big deal because now we had the ‘green light’ to complete the remaining six benches,” Gillcrist said.
On March 15 they completed their task. “It was exceptionally satisfying to receive wonderful comments from onlookers and visitors to the veterans memorial who appreciated what we were doing,” Gillcrist said. “That made us feel good.”
These projects are the capstone event in scouting, which are required before a Boy Scout can achieve the highest rank of Eagle Scout.
“Successful completion of this project gives me an enormous sense of pride and accomplishment,” Gillcrist said. “Giving back to the community in which I live is near and dear to my heart.
“But I could not have done this project by myself,” he added. “It was a huge team effort and I am grateful to everyone who helped me complete it. I hope to pay it forward someday.”