Paul Gacek beautified landscaping at the Oak Forest Park District building for his Eagle Scout project. | Alison Nicol~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 14, 2013 6:47AM
It was Joan Gaceks’ birthday, but the proud grandmother only wanted to talk about her grandson, Paul Gacek, and his Eagle Scout project, which was completed on a recent Saturday.
Paul, 16, a sophomore at Oak Forest High School, is a member of the Boy Scouts Venturing Crew 422. Venturing is a Scouting program for youths ages 13 to 20, designed to help prepare them to become responsible adults.
For his project to become an Eagle Scout, the highest rank in the Boy Scouts, Paul decided to improve the landscaping around the Oak Forest Park District building, 15601 Central Ave.
Nine months in the planning, the project was made possible by generous donations from local businesses and the help of his friends and family and fellow members of the Venturing Crew.
Paul said he chose the landscaping project because he lives near the park district building and felt its grounds could use a “little sprucing up.” His mother, Judy, and sister, Terres, 21, work at the fitness center there.
Valuable time and professional expertise was provided by the Sawa family and Jim Melka Landscaping and Design, which has offices in Mokena, Tinley Park and Orland Park. Several other businesses donated money for Paul’s project.
It all came together beautifully under warm, sunny skies Sept. 28, with three generations of the Gacek family and approximately 30 other volunteers showing up at 8:30 a.m. to begin shoveling dirt and planting ornamental grasses and shrubbery.
Joe Conway, a park district commissioner, was on hand for most of the process and said he was “very impressed” with Paul. Conway said the teen came in with detailed plans and “had really done his homework regarding the fundraising so that we could hardly refuse his proposal.”
He said other local Boy Scouts have done community projects for the park district during the past three years, including creating a community garden “with its own self-sustained watering system.”
But surely none had a grandma more happy and proud than Joan Gracek, who was beaming during the day as she watched Paul’s plans become reality.
“I’m really lucky, he’s a great, great kid,” she said.