SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — Ryan Saurborn, 17, of Maplewood, has been a Boy Scout since the second grade, working his way up from Cub Scout through Boy Scout ranks and completing dozens of merit badges. As part of his work toward attaining Eagle Scout rank, he chose his synagogue, Temple Sharey-Tefilo Israel in South Orange, for a community service project: to completely reconstruct the walkway that leads to TSTI’s outdoor worship and nature space.
The purpose of an Eagle Scout project is for a Scout to provide an important service to the community as well as lead a group of peers and learn to manage a long-term project.
“From the moment I went into Scouts, I’ve been working toward attaining Eagle,” said Saurborn, now a high school senior. “I chose a project that is very personal to me, and will have such a positive impact on a community I’m really close to and has given me so much.”
The Saurborns have been members of the Reform synagogue since 1997 and Ryan Saurborn grew up there, attending the preschool, religious school and Hebrew High classes. He also served on the senior youth group board for two years.
Saurborn is a member of Troop 5 in Maplewood, chartered in 1920 and one of the largest Boy Scout units in the Northern New Jersey Council. During its long, successful history, more than 100 Scouts from Troop 5 have achieved Eagle rank; Saurborn hopes to join that roster at the troop’s Code of Honor ceremony next spring.
Saurborn brought the ramp idea to preschool Director Carol Paster, as the campsite is used by the preschool summer camp as well as for outdoor services. He saw right away that, although the original paver walkway was adequate for youngsters or those without hampered mobility, “I wanted the entire congregation to have easy access to that area. Now everyone, including those who use wheelchairs and walkers, can use it to reach our campsite.”
Saurborn did the project in phases, starting approximately 18 months ago by, first staining and waterproofing the wooden benches and outdoor pulpit; he then tore up the entire existing ramp of bricks and stones late last summer. This spring, he began building the new ramp with purchased and donated materials. He recycled as much original foundational material as possible and laid the new paver pathway. He completed the various phases with help from fellow Troop 5 Boy Scout volunteers, and finished the whole project Aug. 8, in time for the new preschool year.
“I learned a lot about construction and the proper way to build a paver walkway,” Saurborn said. “It was a lot of hard work over many hot days but it was totally worth it. I also learned how to manage a team and take a challenging project from concept to completion. I am very grateful for the support I received from my temple, family, troop leaders and fellow Scouts.”
To pay for materials, Saurborn ran a plant sale last year at TSTI, taking orders for Mother’s Day. A true community effort, TSTI matched the funds he raised and a synagogue member donated some of the pavers. Throughout each step, Saurborn consulted with Paster and Executive Director Leslie Sporn to ensure his plan preserved the natural look of the space and met TSTI’s needs.
“Thanks to Ryan’s hard work and tenacity, the TSTI community now has complete accessibility to our beautiful outdoor space,” Paster said. “He has certainly earned a big merit badge from all of us, as he works his way toward becoming an Eagle Scout.”
Photos Courtesy of TSTI