LEXINGTON PARK, Md. – A 16-year-old Leonardtown Boy Scout helped collect 1200 pounds worth of food to assist families in need.

Jake Friess, of Boy Scout Troop 2819 in Lexington Park, needed to complete a service project to work towards becoming an Eagle Scout. Eagle Scout is the highest rank you can achieve in scouting.

Friess said he attended his first Boy Scout meeting five years ago and knew immediately that he wanted to join and also that he would one day be an Eagle Scout. Each Eagle Scout must organize, lead, and manage an extensive service project that benefits the community.

The 16-year-old said he had various ideas for what his project might be, but then COVID-19 hit.  Jake said he knew that a lot of people were out of work and asked himself, “What am I gonna do to help the community? The food pantry is probably really struggling now.”

Need Has Tripled Due To COVID

A charitable organization connected Jake with Phyllis Greer from the Church of the Ascension Food Pantry in Lexington Park.

Jake’s help couldn’t have come at a better time. Ms. Greer said that since the start of the COVID crisis the number of families utilizing the food pantry has tripled. “We were glad to hear from Jake, even though we have been thankful to the community for providing donations.”

Greer said the need for donations is up. “Specifically, around this time of the year when school starts, our number increase and around the holidays. We’ve certainly seen families we’ve not seen before because of job loss. Jake was a blessing when he knocked on our doors.”

The pantry, located on Great Mills Road in Lexington Park, is open Tuesday and Thursday from 9 am – 12 pm. Phyllis Greer said they serve 120 families each week.  Due to COVID, volunteers pre-bag groceries and hand them out to families as they drive up. Greer said they can always use monetary or non-perishable food donations.

Socially Distanced Collecting

Due to COVID, Jake hesitated to do a typical drop-off collection. He opted instead to hold drives on social media and to drop off bags and pamphlets door-to-door. Residents filled the bags with donations. Jake and his fellow scouts collected the filled bags that were left outside.

Jake said, “I secured a donation for the bags and designed and printed up pamphlets .About a third of my food came from a donor that wanted to help an Eagle Scout. COVID made it challenging. That’s why I opted with delivering bags and pamphlets. It cut down on the interaction and definitely allowed us to social distance and slow the spread.”

Jake, assisted by his fellow scouts, collected the food and delivered 1200 pounds of it to the food pantry. “We spent two hours organizing it.”

He said that amount of good will go a long way to help local families. “They are pretty busy.  The good we donated, one of the volunteers said it would last approximately a month.”

A Future of Service

Jake said he’s almost completed his Eagle Scout requirements. “I have one more badge and one more requirement.”

After that, the youngest of five brothers isn’t sure where he wants to go to college but he knows what he wants to do afterwards. “‘I’d like to be an officer in the Marine Corps and be a helicopter pilot.”

Phyllis Greer thinks Jake is already showing a tremendous leadership ability. “We were grateful that he reached out to us and did a tremendous job. He collected 1200 pounds of food. He spearheaded the entire project.  He coordinated the pickup project.  He did a great leadership job. I’m proud of him.”