Jared Ross is 13 years old, and has already served the military for this country.
Perhaps not in the traditional sense, but this incoming freshman at Bath High School has done more for military veterans than many of the rest of us. He’s fixed up the Allen County Veterans Pantry at Memorial Hall as his Eagle Scout project to give veterans a clean and respectable place to shop.
“This was personal to me, it was a family thing,” Ross explained last week at the pantry, as he gave a tour of the rows of shelves stacked high with food items and toiletries that he designed and installed. And the new refrigerators he solicited. And the freshly-painted flooring he just finished.
You see, his great-grandmother Joan Gaskin started the pantry 20 years ago. Her daughter, Kay Sellers is one of the co-directors today. Kay’s daughters, including Jared’s mother Mariah, have worked there over the years. And two years ago, Jared continued the family involvement with the agency.
“When I started volunteering here in the summer of 2011, I saw the place was coming apart. The shelves were starting to crack and bend, the floor was a mess, and the freezers were so old they weren’t cooling well,” Jared said.
Always ready for a challenge, the civic-minded youth began his task to help the veterans have a nicer place to shop once a month for food and supplemental needs.
“I got permission from the Scouts and from the Civic Center to do this, then I price shopped for materials. My dad helped me draw front and side views of the shelving I wanted to put in. Then I made a budget and started fundraising,” he said.
He and his friends in his long-time Scout Troop 82 joined family in soliciting business contacts they had, as well as friends. Jared, armed with business cards his Grandma Kay had made for him, made the pitch.
“It was hard for him the first few times, but then he got in the groove and went out and made the pitches,” Mariah said.
He pitched enough to get $2,500 in cash to buy materials. He got help from a variety of local businesses, from unions, and from veteran agencies.
“That part wasn’t easy, but I always remembered that it’s for a good cause. These veterans who come to the pantry are all really nice people, and they need our help because they served our country and fought for our freedom,” Jared said.
After the money was raised, the sweat equity began.
Jared led a crew, which included fellow Scouts and his family, as well as a few volunteers, in tearing out and rebuilding the pantry. “Getting everybody to cooperate was one of the hardest parts,” he recalls.
“It was weird because I had to ask my 13-year-old son what he wanted me to do,” Mariah said, laughing. “However, as a mom I was so proud seeing him lead like he did,” she added.
The group began work at 4 p.m. on May 31 and didn’t stop until 5:30 p.m. on June 2. “Jared had volunteered 300 hours at the pantry before this project. This project alone took 283 hours and 45 minutes,” Mariah said.
When the dust settled, the crew liked the looks of the new shelves, which did not buckle under the weight of cans of food. They were proud of the new (to them) fridges that were keeping produce fresh. And, Jared likes the look of the freshlypainted all-one-color floor.
“I feel like my great-grandma would have been proud to say that her great-grandson finished what she had started,” he said.
But this project doesn’t end his patriotic ambitions.
While working on his project he managed to keep his grade point average at 3.83, compete on the quizzing team at his church, perform in the Bath Wildcat Band, and keep active in his Scout Troop. He wants to attend Mount Vernon Nazarene College after graduation, with plans to someday become an interrogator for the military.
In the short term, his plans include a Sept. 8 Eagle Court of Honor at Memorial Hall, where he can direct people to the basement afterward and give them a tour of his Veterans Pantry.