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Kaiser honors veterans with Eagle Scout project

Matthew Kaiser, right, sits on the benches he made for his Eagle Scout project with Scoutmaster Steve Forrey. Star Gazette photo by Katrina Styx

Sometimes, the best way to thank a veteran is to give them a place to sit down and take a break. And that’s exactly what Matthew Kaiser just did.

Kaiser, 16, installed five hand-made benches Tuesday at the Minnesota Veterans Home in Hastings for his Eagle Scout project.

Kaiser’s whole family has a keen appreciation for veterans and the service they’ve given to the country. His father, Roy, served in the Army, and his sister worked at the veterans home, so he got the idea to do something for the veterans there, he said. He wanted his project to give something back to the veterans.

About a year and a half ago, Kaiser met with Dan Jordan, volunteer coordinator at the veterans home. He had thought of building benches to put along the trails, so veterans would be able to sit down and take breaks as they walked. Jordan suggested putting the benches in the park area just behind the buildings. They agreed on the project and Kaiser got to work.

First, he had to find a plan. He looked online for a bench design that could be easily built by a group of Boy Scouts. He had to get donations for the materials, and was able to secure what he needed thanks to Lowes, the American Legion in Hastings and his neighbors, Dan and Sandy Benham. The Benhams donated in memory of Sandy’s father, Steve Crapps, a World War II veteran, so one bench bears a special memorial plaque with his name.

On May 3, Kaiser gathered a group of 18 fellow scouts and parents of scouts to help him build the benches in his family’s garage. It took them four hours to get them all built.

On Tuesday, he brought them to the veterans home and helped make sure they were placed appropriately. Before all five had even settled into their new homes, residents were already making use of them.

For the veterans home, the benches are a welcome addition. The home doesn’t have much of a budget for projects like this, Jordan said, so without efforts like Kaiser’s, veterans wouldn’t have such things. And they’re things that veterans need and appreciate on a personal level, he said.

“I don’t think you can put a price tag on it.”

Kaiser has been in the Scouting program for 11 years, and is a member of Boy Scout Troop 23. Reaching the organization’s top level has always been a goal of his.

“I’ve always wanted to become and Eagle Scout,” he said.

He will be the first person in his family to be an Eagle Scout.

Although the project itself is done, he still has a few things to finish before officially earning his badge. Kaiser said he expects he’ll be completely finished by the end of this year.

Kaiser is the son of Deb and Roy Kaiser. He has a younger brother, Jacob, who is also working toward becoming an Eagle Scout.