Scout hopes Eagle project will inspire others to help veterans

Jack Duchala, a Gregori High student, built raised vegetable planter boxes to enhance the Veteran of Foreign Wars Post 3199 on West Hatch Road. He is challenging future generations of scouts to do the same to honor veterans.
Jack Duchala, a Gregori High student, built raised vegetable planter boxes to enhance the Veteran of Foreign Wars Post 3199 on West Hatch Road. He is challenging future generations of scouts to do the same to honor veterans. JOE DUCHALA /

On the surface, Jack Duchala’s Eagle Scout project might seem like many others. When the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3199 on West Hatch Road wanted to create a community vegetable garden, he organized a work work crew consisting of family, friends and other members of scout Troop 194.

Last Sunday, they assembled the garden consisting of three raised redwood planter boxes, soil and drip irrigation. Friends painted the wall mural at no charge. Even so, the total cost of materials exceeded $700 and came mostly out of pocket. But his project could have longterm benefits for Post 3199 that go beyond fresh veggies.

He’s challenging other scouts also to do their projects to aid the Post and the Veterans it serves.

“I’m hoping it inspires other troops and scouts doing their Eagles to help with the veterans,” he said. “The posts all need lots of help.

Duchala, a 15-year-old Gregori High freshman, comes from a family that includes numerous members who served in the military. Duchala plans to do the same, hoping to join the Air Force and eventually become a combat rescue officer. Duchala is a member of the Civil Air Patrol and volunteers at the monthly Commemorative Air Force breakfasts. He also is in the leadership program at Gregori High, where he runs cross country and track.

He’s attended events at Post 3199, including the chili cookoffs, and was aware that late last year the post was struggling with membership numbers and nearly shut down. It since has stabilized, with younger veterans stepping up in leadership and to recruit new members. Sprucing up the outside, Duchala decided, would help.

Boy and Girls Club rides rails

Some 25 students from the Boys and Girls Club of Stanislaus County got the opportunity to take an Amtrak train ride Wednesday, thanks to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers 694 in Modesto and Amtrak. The union funded the trip, which for many of the children was their first time ever aboard a train. They rode to San Francisco, learning about the benefits of passenger rail and about the future of expanded rail service throughout the Valley and the state.

Modesto recognizes downtown hero

The Modesto City Council honored the Downtown Improvement District’s Jeffrey Newberry at its Tuesday meeting for his more than quarter century of making downtown a cleaner and better place. Downtown advocate Chris Murphy called Newberry, 61, and the DID “a true treasure.” DID board member Tom Slater, with Slater’s Home Furnishings, said it is not unusual for him to arrive at his business in the morning and find Newberry cleaning the sidewalk, pulling weeds or removing graffiti. Slater said Newberry does this throughout downtown.

Golfing nets $170k for Children’s Crisis Center

The Children’s Crisis Center of Stanislaus County’s Friends Group raised a record $170,000 – shattering its goal of $100,000 – during its annual golf tournament fundraiser at Del Rio Golf and Country Club last week. The Children’s Crisis Center is a nonprofit organization that provides shelter for abused, neglected and at-risk children. In addition, the center extends support services to parents to assist in stabilizing families. The “Friends Group” is made-up of local volunteers from the Modesto community who raise funds, which directly benefit the many branches of the Children’s Crisis Center.

Atwater resident receives two major honors

Retired educator and Atwater grandmother Kathy Flaherty became to first person to receive both Health Care Volunteer of the Year and a U.S. Presidential Volunteer Service award in the same year from HandsOn California in the organization’s five decades of existence. The Hands Across the Valley Volunteer Awards event recognizes and celebrates community volunteers, honoring individuals and groups making a difference by giving their time and talent to help improve the quality of life in the Valley.

In addition to over 200 hours volunteering for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network in 2016, she volunteered over 200 hours for the Society’s Relay For Life in Merced and Atwater as well as Bark For Life. She served as food, advocacy, & event chair for these fundraisers. Flaherty served over 20 hours on the American Cancer Society Community Leadership Council in 2016 and spoke at many events to serve the Merced County region since 2013. She also served on the statewide awards committee.

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