By Mary K. Tilghman, email@example.com
8:47 AM EDT, July 10, 2014
After two years of planning, fundraising and actual construction, the veterans living at Perry Point Veterans Medical Center now have a gazebo to shelter them during summer picnics. For James Heuser, 18, of Towson, the project served as a way to show his gratitude to the veterans and earn his Eagle Scout award.
"I really wanted my project to help the veterans," he said after the gazebo was officially dedicated with a ribbon-cutting ceremony June 28.
Heuser started visiting Perry Point several years ago while his father worked there. Heuser would visit with the residents, especially during the holidays, and In the summer, he noticed, the veterans would gather on a balcony to enjoy pleasant weather. Heuser realized that they needed a bigger space for outdoor relaxing — and he needed an Eagle project.
The 20-by-24-foot wooden structure only took a day to build, with the help of fellow members of Troop 828 in Lutherville along with Towson American Legion Post 22, but it took two and a half years to plan the project and raise the $16,000 in construction costs. The project was actually completed a year ago but it took until this June to organize the official ribbon-cutting.
"I wanted to do something big for the veterans, thank them for their service," Heuser said.
And it has been appreciated, according to Helen Hart, the nurse manager for Building 25A, where the gazebo is located. "It's very useful," she said. Once a month, a cookout is held by the gazebo which shelters the residents from the summer sun, she said. Families use it, as well, for their own visits.
About 55 veterans live in Building 25A, according to Hart.
Heuser admitted there were times when it felt like he'd never get the project done. Encouragement from his parents and peers kept him going, he said, and he offered this advice, "Never lose sight of what you're going for."
Heuser began his affiliation with members of Towson American Legion Post 22 while placing flags on veterans' graves during past Memorial Day observances. The post donated $2,500 toward the gazebo and several members also helped on construction day, Heuser said.
"We think it was a great and wonderful thing that he did," said Fred Hofferbert, incoming commander of Post 22.
Jim Rebbert, who was commander two years ago and Dave Pardoe, the post's finance officer, worked with Heuser. But, said, Hofferbert, Heuser "did most of the work on his own."
Heuser was named Scout of the Year by American Legion Post 22 for 2013-2014 and came in second for national Scout of the Year honors, Hofferbert said.
In addition, the National Headquarters of the American Legion awarded Heuser a scholarship, according to a news release issued by Post 22, which nominated the Scout for the honor.
Heuser, who is spending the summer as a camp counselor at Broad Creek Scout Reservation near the Susquehanna River, hopes his future will include Scouting.
In the meantime, the son of Mark and Leslie Heuser graduated this spring from Loyola Blakefield high school and is headed to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte where he will major in computer science.