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Eagle Scout Waters assembles hygiene kits for homeless
waters scout

When it came time for Gideon Waters to come up with a project that would earn him the highest rank in Scouting, he knew he wanted to do something that would benefit the wider community.

So, he did what he could to help the homeless.

Waters, the son of Kirk and Shelly Waters, spent more than two months lobbying local hotel chains to donate hygiene products like shampoo bottles and soap that he could assemble into a kit that he planned on distributing to the Salvation Army Haig and Isabel Berberian Shelter and Transitional Living Facility in Downtown Modesto.

But it wasn’t necessarily the easiest process, and Waters learned a few things along the way that he didn’t expect.

“One of the things I learned was how to handle being turned down and not letting it discourage me,” he said before earning recognition that is only achieved by four percent of all Boy Scouts who begin the program. “I had to learn to stay motivated and keep pushing to achieve my goal.”

Ultimately, it took visits to a number of hotels in San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties – Hampton Inn and Suites, Holiday Inn, La Quinta, Best Western, and Marriott, for example – to put together the 250 kits that he was able to deliver to help one of the larger homeless shelters in the area cater to an increasing number of clients.

“Being an Eagle Scout means that people are expecting you to be a model citizen and to be of service to others,” Waters said. “It also teaches you to be prepared, and this project allowed me to show those things.”

Joining Waters in the Eagle Scout Court of Honor on Tuesday at the Ripon VFW Hall from Boy Scout Troop 440 – which is affiliated with the Ripon Ward of the Manteca Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – were Spencer Ogden, Bryce Eldredge, Maika West, Aaron Wood, Kai West, Landon West, Matthew Gravina, Grant Ogden, and Ty Herrin.

Projects undertaken by the group included creating a human sundial in the community garden, adding musical instruments to the community garden, feeding and assisting the homeless, and sprucing up the Mormon statue in front of the Clarence Smit museum that honors the Mormon settlers in the area.

The process also gave young men like Waters the chance to learn how to appreciate the things that Scouting teaches – from how to be self-sustaining to how to enjoy and appreciate the outdoors.

“Before Boy Scouts I never would have wanted to go camping or be outdoors – it taught me how to appreciate nature,” said Waters. “I see things differently now and appreciate things like camping, and I’m grateful for that.”

With recent national changes to Boy Scouts of America – including allowing both gay and transgender participants, and gay scout leaders – the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which Troop 440 was affiliated, announced that they would ending their century-old partnership with the organization and will instead create their own entity aimed at providing outdoor experiences for young men and women.

Because of that impending separation, said Scout Master Jay Williamson, many young men have been working overtime to try and achieve the honor that they long aspired to add to their resumes.

And as many as 14 other young men are expected to earn the rank of Eagle Scout later this year as part of the push to get the recognition in under the wire.

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544