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Pandemic changes Eagle Scout project but theme stays

Pandemic changes Eagle Scout project but theme stays

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NORTHFIELD — Next time you head to Otto Bruyns Northfield Public Library to check out some books, take the opportunity to check out the latest books that surround the library. Thanks to the Eagle Scout project by Dennis Xu, the stockade fence that lines the perimeter of the library parking lot is now painted to resemble a giant book shelf complete with copies of books from around the world and in several languages.

Xu, 17, a senior at Mainland Regional High School, said his initial idea for his Eagle Scout project was sidetracked due to the pandemic. Yu said he talked with the library director, Aubrey Heirs, about creating an international section in the library with books in different languages where there would be something for all people to enjoy. While the library director liked the idea, the project just would not fit with the COVID-19 social distancing protocols in place. So, he had to pivot his plans and revise the project.

While establishing the international library section inside the library just was not going to work, Xu found a way to create something visual that pays homage to the original plan. With the blessing of the library director, Xu sketched out plans to paint a mural on the fence that surrounds the library parking lot to look like a book shelf filled with books.

“I enjoy art and drawing, and I kept working on the sketch until I came up with what I envisioned the library would look like. The books have titles in several languages and international authors, so the mural still keeps the original idea of what was planned,” said Xu.

The Friends of the Northfield Library helped with some funding for the project for supplies for the scouts. Heather Mellon, president of the group was enthusiastic about the Eagle Scout project.

“I think this will be a very nice enhancement for the library, and I am proud of Dennis Xu for helping to create something special here in Northfield.”

First the area had to be cleaned and cleared of any debris like fallen branches or weeds. Repairs had to be made to replace any broken or damaged planks. The fence then had to be primed and ready to be painted. Xu had to sketch the design of his larger-than-life international bookcase onto the fence before all the other scouts and volunteers could help to complete the project.

Saturday, March 27, was the big day for painting and finishing off the project that had its humble start as a sketch but that would finish with nearly an 80-foot-long bookcase. A crew of roughly 15 scouts and parents were busy painting the books on the shelves. Tom Sawyer himself would have been proud of the work party Saturday morning as the volunteers carefully added their brush strokes to the enormous fence. Before long the bookcase/fence was indeed taking on the look of a section of the library. The project was completed Tuesday, March 30.

Xu said he began working toward Eagle Scout when he joined Northfield Boy Scout Troop 72 about seven years ago.

“I started working on the merit badges right away because I definitely wanted to complete all the requirements for Eagle Scout,” Xu said. Camping with his friends and fellow scouts has been Xu’s favorite scout experience. Working at the annual Christmas tree sale was also a lot of fun for the scout.

The Mainland senior has many interests beyond scouting. He is a member of the Mainland Marching Band, where he plays the synthesizer. He plays the piano in the Mainland Jazz Express and competes in Ocean City Pops-sponsored piano competitions, in which he placed first in 2020. Xu is a member of the Mainland tennis team as well as the National Honor Society.

Xu is the first in his family to achieve Eagle Scout, something he and his parents are very proud of.

Xu added, “I am really happy and excited to get this chance to do something that will benefit my community.” Dennis Xu is the son of Kate and Ying Xu.

Kate Xu said, “We did not know much about Boy Scouts until Dennis said he wanted to get involved. He worked very hard, and we are so proud of him and this community project he was able to do. It really helped him to grow from a boy into a young man.”

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