Eagle Scout gives back at community garden

Evan Smith is a 13-year-old rising freshman who, in 2017, completed his 8th grade year at Episcopal Day School in Pensacola, Fla. 

Students from EDS have regularly visited Innisfree’s ‘From the Ground Up’ community garden, tackling garden chores and learning about the plants from Lead Gardener Elizabeth Eubanks, a veteran science teacher who shares her vast knowledge with kids from all over town.

Evan, a Boy Scout who earned several merits in order to request permission to work on his Eagle Scout project, began coming up with ideas early in the year. He spoke with Elizabeth about benches in the garden, then considered adding a roof to the beautiful stage that welcomes musicians to perform in the popular ‘Music Under the Stars’ outdoor concert event.

“The thought of my hard work benefiting others at the garden gives me joy – but at the same time, I must remember that although I built this stage to benefit other people, it has also benefited me,” Evan says.

In order to begin his project, Evan had to create budgets and proposals to bring before the Scout Council, according to Elizabeth. Innisfree Hotels donated $500 to his project. However, the entire budget was well over $1,600, and Evan raised the remaining funds to complete it. At just 13 years old, he also organized six working days – five of them for planning and building the new stage.

Those five days required older scouts and parents to help out, with support from a local contractor. On the sixth day, all of the scouts from Troup 495 came out to put the benches together.

Elizabeth estimates around 150 total man hours went into the project, coordinated by Evan and his father, Kirby, who Elizabeth notes did not skip a beat to make sure “everything was on point always.”

“On a personal note, I am beyond impressed with Evan and grateful for the stage and the benches. Although I keep calling it a stage, it will serve as a classroom as well, and we hope to generate other ideas for the community to use this space,” Elizabeth shares. “I am and have always been a great supporter of Scouts, especially Eagles working on their final project. They’re true leaders in the community.”

Evan’s father tells us this was a very meaningful project for his son.

“It was so neat to watch him grow as he developed and executed it, and I do think he understood the long term impact it’s going to have. It was really a community effort. There were scouts, contractors, people who had nothing to do with the garden, even neighborhood kids. Word got out, and it was incredible to see so many different people come together to make this happen for the community,” Kirby shares.

And he has a word of advice for other parents: having children volunteer in the community is what makes the community.

“We should all have a servant attitude when it comes to our community,” he says. “We should lead by example and give our children a chance to lead in community projects, because one day they will be leaders of our community.”

Evan and Kirby Smith were honored at a springtime ‘Music Under the Stars’ event, where the stage was christened by smudging in a bit of garden soil with bare feet.

Evan remains humble until the end, stating:

“Truthfully, even though I built the project, the thanks should be given to the Lead Gardener Elizabeth Eubanks; James Santarosa, a contractor for Emerald Coast Contractors; as well as help with the transportation of items from Rob Zimmerman, the owner of Emerald Coast Contractors. This project would not have been possible without donations from Lisa Williams, my own family, Dan Killingsworth, Innisfree Hotels,  and The RR Evans foundation.

Innisfree Hotels and ‘From the Ground Up’ community garden are truly grateful to all involved.

Evan, you are a class act.

– Ashley Kahn Salley

Lead Storyteller, Innisfree Hotels