Eagle Scouts are a big benefit to communities

According to an old movie, every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.

I propose this truth: Every time a Boy Scout becomes an Eagle, his community benefits.

Since one of the requirements to attain the rank of Eagle Scout is a service project for a nonprofit or community group, a lot of good things get done thanks to young men working toward that lofty goal.

I recently talked with a new Eagle Scout, Stephen Hartsell of Midland, along with his parents, Todd and Robbie Hartsell. He wanted to tell me about his service project, but we ended up talking more about the tremendous effect Scouting has had on his life.

Stephen joined Boy Scouts five years ago, at age 11. He was influenced by his godfather, the late Frank Peacock, who was an Eagle Scout, volunteer and Scouting enthusiast. Though Peacock died before Stephen was old enough to join, Stephen chose Troop 202 at Mission Baptist Church in Locust because that was where his godfather had been an assistant Scoutmaster.

Since joining Boy Scouts, Hartsell has earned 42 merit badges - 21 are required for the Eagle rank - put in countless hours of community service and had the opportunity to camp and hike all over the country. He's visited national parks in such places as Utah, Arizona and Nevada, and last summer he visited Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico.

Stephen said the camping and hiking are what he likes best about Scouting. He once made an 80-mile hike over 10 days; his longest one-day hike was 20 miles. His parents say that's his nature: He just keeps going, no matter what.

Todd Hartsell refers to the process of becoming an Eagle Scout as an "endurance test," one that his son worked hard to pass.

Stephen Hartsell's community service project was to build a basketball court at his church, where children formerly shot baskets in the parking lot. When I asked why he chose that project, his answer was simple: He likes basketball, and the church needed it to keep kids safe.

The whole project took nearly a year to complete, beginning with seeking approval from the Scout council and the church, and ending with a Scout workday to paint lines on the court and install the basketball goal.

Now that he's an Eagle Scout, Stephen has no plans to quit Scouting. He wants to earn 60 merit badges before he's 18. Then he plans to go to college and study archeology, a discipline that seems in keeping with his character.

No matter what his focus - Scouting, school, golf, hiking or digging holes - Stephen Hartsell is in it for the long haul, and he doesn't quit.