Over the past few years, a thriving garden has quietly sprouted along Ottawa’s Second Street. And, thanks to efforts spearheaded by Justin Circle, the garden is on track to double its capacity to feed those in need.
“We had tossed around the idea of a greenhouse ever since we built that garden, which was about three years ago,” said Circle, a Boy Scout with Troop 77. “Two years ago we got really serious about it, and we applied for a grant. My scoutmaster said, ‘Here, draw up these plans for me. I want to see what you can do with this.’”
Along with a dedicated group of volunteers, Circle is in the final stages of constructing his Eagle Scout project: a greenhouse in the “Garden of Hope” located along Ottawa’s 2nd Street between Cedar and Oak. The plot was named “Garden of Hope” by the scouts of Troop 77 in honor of its purpose — all fresh produce from the garden is donated to Franklin County Hope House, a non-profit food pantry and emergency relief organization.
“I’m building a greenhouse that we can use to start plants to be able to get a faster growing season going, so we can get more produce given to Hope House and provide produce for a longer amount of time,” Circle said. “Last year we gave almost 900 pounds of produce to Hope House. Our hope is – between this garden, the greenhouse, and our other garden we have by Smoked Creations – we want to double that. We want to be sitting at about 1,800 pounds of produce given.”
Though he now stands on the cusp of his project’s final culmination, Circle’s path to Eagle Scout status began many years ago as a young Cub Scout.
“I started in Cub Scouts in First grade,” Circle said. “It was cool, because when I got ready to move over from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts, we got to restart the troop that my grandfather was the scoutmaster of, and my uncles had gone through. All my family had gone through there, and us boys got to start that back up.”
Troop 77 was refounded when Circle was 12 years old. Now 17, Circle says he owes many of his favorite memories and life experience to Boy Scouts.
“It teaches you so much that you just can’t learn being out in the world. I’ve literally been dropped off before and been told, “Go walk, go find a campsite. We’ll meet you there in a couple hours, and see how you’re doing. It’s awesome,” Circle said. “You learn that, yes, there are some people in the world that have different views on everything. But you come together, and you have this brotherhood of “I’ll look out for you, whether it’s in school or walking down Main Street.
“It’s building the characteristics to make a better man.”
When the time came to begin formalizing his Eagle Scout project, Circle sought guidance from his scoutmaster, then settled on the idea of a greenhouse.
“I was so excited. I was ready to build it, and then the paperwork was slapped in front of me,” Circle said, laughing. “It’s about a notebook thick, wanting to know how are you going to do it, who is going to be there, what safety measures do you have to take, how are you getting your money – step after step after step to make sure you have this fully planned out and ready to go.”
After some sleepless nights spent filling out forms, Circle began to see support to for his project roll in.
“I wouldn’t be here right now without all of the community sponsors I’ve had,” Circle said, the likes of which include Columbia Construction, Bones Rock Yard, Gerken Rent-All, ECKAN, DIY Supply, First United Methodist Church, Ottawa, Steve’s Auto Plaza, Fred Perez, and more. “[This greenhouse] is going to speed up the garden’s growing process, and allow us to be able to give a lot more fresh produce, and to help with the nutrient intake for everybody. To make sure they are taken care of in the hardest months of the year. The colder it is, the more you need, and the better fresh produce is for for them.”
For Circle, the most rewarding part of doing his Eagle scout project has been the community’s support.
“The community stepped behind me and said ‘This is awesome, we to make this happen,’” he said. “I’ve gotten so many, ‘I never thought someone your age would do something like this.’ Well, that’s what Scouts is about.
“We want to make our community as best as we can.”