Setting shovels to the landscaping at the HOPE Center, Jadon Kittlesen and his friends and fellow Scouts of Troop 9306 are helping to make the advocacy center more welcoming.

“We’re adding new shrubs and flowers to the HOPE Center to add more to the welcoming atmosphere,” said Kittlesen, 16, who has been a Scout since he was in kindergarten. “It’s important because it’s for victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault.”

The mission of the HOPE Center is to create zero tolerance for sexual and domestic violence through support, healing, outreach, prevention and education.

Erica Staab, HOPE Center director, said one of the goals of the nonprofit organization is to create a welcoming environment for clients. But with people as the main priority of the organization, some projects are put to the side.

“We don’t have the people, money or time,” said Staab.

For this reason, Staab was incredibly thankful when Kittlesen approached her at church and asked if there was anything he could do to help the HOPE Center.

Staab said Kittlesen had to go out of his way to coordinate the project — finding volunteers, gathering donations, picking up the shrubs, and when that was all completed, working with the other boys to plant the shrubs.

“I appreciate Jadon going the extra mile to help us, and by extension our clients,” Staab said.

As part of their journey to reaching the rank of Eagle, Scouts must work through a series of ranks. Part of that process is leading and completing a service project that benefits the community. The Scouts must not only organize the project, but do so well enough that they could hand the project to any other Scout and they could also complete the project. Scouts must also receive 21 merit badges.

“It’s been a really good project for him,” Deb Kittlesen, Jadon’s mother, said. “It’s been an eye-opener for him to see what it takes to implement a project and be a leader.”

Helgeson said Eagle Scouts are called the “four percenters” since only 4% of Scouts reach the rank of Eagle. Since he became Scoutmaster in 2006, Helgeson has had 26 Scouts become Eagles, with at least one achieving the rank each year.

After Kittlesen’s project at the HOPE Center is completed, Staab needs to approve his work, then a board of Scout leaders will review the project and his Scout career, before Kittlesen will be awarded his Eagle rank.

Kittlesen has been working on the project since last August, getting approval from Scoutmaster Tom Helgeson, the troop and the council, as well as learning from a local landscaper.

He reached out to Pam Storey, owner of Storey Landscaping LLP who taught him landscaping techniques and how to plot out space, work with shade and choose plant type, plant size and color combinations.

“He learned what landscaping is really about,” Storey said who has been working locally for 19 years. “I grew up in Faribault and it’s really great to see someone in my home town is helping out.”

Kittlesen and Storey have worked together in the past when she was landscaping at his house. “He’s was a little knowledgeable about landscaping,” Kittlesen said. “He came out and started asking questions and was very interested.”

Storey was impressed by Kittlesen’s organization selection as he chose to help a place that helps other people. He also varied the places he asked to donate plants to include more than one local business. Storey Landscaping LLC was one of the organizations to donate.

“It’s good for the community to understand that Scouts are out there helping,” Storey said. “Kittlesen was a joy to work with.”

Reporter Renata Erickson can be reached at 507-333-3129. Follow her on Twitter @FDNrenata.

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