SCARBOROUGH — Charles Spinney set out to create new benches for the Maine Veterans’ Home garden in Scarborough, but after talking to a resident, his Eagle Scout project grew to something bigger.

Spinney, a 15-year-old Baxter Academy sophomore from Westbrook, recently finished upgrading the formerly hard-to-get-to garden to make it handicapped accessible. Few residents could access the garden before, but now nearly all of them can, even with wheelchairs and walkers. And the garden has more amenities, as well.

The 150-bed Veterans Home serves veterans with a wide range of cognitive and physical disabilities and includes all levels of care, including assisted living and long term care.

“I was outside looking at the garden in my Scout uniform when a veteran asked me what I was doing. I told him I was going to work on the benches, and he mentioned that he wished he could go down to the garden, but he couldn’t. So I decided to expand the project and make it all handicap accessible,” Spinney said.

Work began in the fall, with other Scouts pitching in along with members of the Greater Portland School of Jukado in Westbrook, where Spinney is a dedicated martial arts student.

“We redid the garden beds, added a memorial area with pavers, paved a sidewalk and added a railing to the garden. Doing that, we were able to make the path less steep so more veterans could use it. Before, you didn’t need to be wheelchair-bound for it to be too steep” Spinney said.

Paul Robie, a resident who served in Vietnam, said he was looking forward to adding perennials to the garden.

“I like a yellow and red scene for Marines and to have (the flowers) go with the flags of each branch,” Robie said. “I like to see things grow and seeing other people enjoying seeing what we’ve done.”

Katie Berthiaume, the Veteran’s Home’s director of recreational therapy, said “having the memorial garden be wheelchair and walker accessible is great.”

“It allows our residents to spend more quality time outdoors in the nicer months in a nice peaceful setting,” Berthiaume said.

Several residents enjoy gardening, she said, and now they can be more involved in planning and planting the garden.

The three garden benches that comprised his original plan will be dedicated to Richard Fog of Westbrook, Spinney’s great grandfather Dennis Pehrson and Dale Lincoln, all veterans who have impacted his life, said Spinney, who comes from a long line of family members who have served in the military. The garden dedication will take place in the spring.

“Richard was an instructor in Jukado, and served as a medic in Vietnam, and was also a Scout. He really influenced me,” Spinney said.

Pehrson, who also served in Vietnam, was instrumental in growing Spinney’s interest in the outdoors, he said, along with Dale Lincoln.

“The benches will honor them by having their name, years served and for what branch,” Spinney said. “Veterans have done so much for us and I figured I should do something to repay them. The veterans at the home, due to their age and when they served, generally served in a conflict.”

The project took a total of 296 hours to complete and includes beds for trees, daffodils and tulips. Spinney also set down new grass seed.

He presented the project Jan. 26 and is now an Eagle Scout, but Spinney’s work isn’t finished. He said he intends to maintain the garden over time, stick with the Scouts and help his peers get their own Eagle Scout honors. Spinney also intends to install flags of each branch and help Robie plant color-coordinated flowers. To donate for the flags or maintenance, email Spinney’s mother, Trica, at [email protected]

“What started out as something smaller grew to this, and I am proud. I am not done though. A lot of people tend to slow down after their Eagle Scouts, but there is more I can do,” Spinney said.

Chance Viles — 207-780-9092

[email protected]

Twitter: @chanceviles

Chance Viles — 207-780-9092

[email protected]

Twitter: @chanceviles

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