STEVENSVILLE — Joshua Ridgley, a Life Scout at Troop 1631 sponsored by Christ Church Parish on Kent Island, found out that Eagle Scout projects rarely go as planned. Over a year ago, Joshua had initially planned on completing a different project, however, after hitting numerous administrative roadblocks beyond his control he was forced back to the drawing board.

Then in early January of this year, Joshua met with representatives of Chesapeake Cats and Dogs in Wye Mills to discuss their need to find a timely replacement of their feral cat shelter. Coupling Joshua’s love for rescue animals and Chesapeake Cats and Dogs’ need, Joshua had found his new Eagle Scout Project.

Knowing the current structure was failing, Joshua acted without delay to obtain the necessary approvals to proceed with his project. However, soon after his first fundraising letters were sent to civic clubs, fraternal organizations and businesses in the community, words like “Coronavirus,” “COVID-19,” “Pandemic” and subsequently “Quarantine” and “Social Distancing” became part of our daily lexicon.

The pandemic presented unforeseen delays and challenges no one could have expected. Almost five months since he initially agreed to replace the feral cat shelter, the old shelter was literally falling apart around the cats and volunteers who depended on it; Joshua needed to act.

Before proceeding into the construction phase of his project, Joshua set up a video teleconference with his Troop leaders to get their advice prior to starting his project in the new era of “social distancing.” He came away with valuable ideas and a plan to limit the physical interaction of volunteers working on his project, focusing on best practices for ensuring social distancing and use of CDC recommended personal protective equipment when necessary.

Joshua implemented a modular approach to his construction project by having dedicated, independent and socially distant teams work on assigned aspects of the project. By breaking his volunteers into small independent teams, Joshua was able to minimize direct social contact between his volunteers and limit daily team size. While this plan limited the physical interaction between the teams themselves, it also meant communication, accuracy and exacting measurements were critically important in every step of the project.

The volunteers were separated into teams, mostly by domiciled family groups with Joshua providing physical supervision within social distancing protocols. The teams were as follows:

• Framing and Truss Team;

• Foundation and Structure Team;

• Installation Team; and

• Landscaping Team.

On May 17 the last of these teams (Landscaping) helped Joshua finish his Eagle Scout Project, culminating in approximately 203 volunteer hours being dedicated to his project.

Chesapeake Cats and Dogs was thrilled with the new shelter. The beneficiary representative Michelle Kirby said, “I am beyond impressed with the outcome of this project. Joshua took my vision and made it 10 times better. His hard work and dedication are appreciated beyond measures. I can’t thank him enough.”

Joshua wishes to thank Chesapeake Cats and Dogs for being such a worthwhile and gracious beneficiary. Likewise, he would like to thank Charlie and Shirley’s Old Stevensville Barbershop, the Queenstown Lions Club, Friel Lumber Company and Rental Works of Grasonville for their financial and material support.

Joshua also sends out a special thanks to all of his team members, Troop leaders, parent volunteers, Christ Church Parish, and all his fellow Scouts of Troop 1631 for their unwavering support.

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