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Local Boy Scout builds Little Free Libraries to gain Eagle Scout rank

By Staff | Aug 17, 2018

Jefferson High School Junior Louie Wabnitz, of Shepherdstown, shows off one of his five Little Free Libraries, which is in Morgan's Grove Park. Photo by Tabitha Johnston.

SHEPHERDSTOWN — It started with the Shepherdstown Community Club’s Annual Legendary Book Sale in Oct. 2016. So many books were left over after the sale, the club had to rent a storage unit to store them all.

While this would allow the club to have a good supply of books to sell in future sales, SCC Treasurer Mark Kohut and President Mike Austin thought there was a better way to put the books to use in the community — by building and placing Little Free Libraries filled with child- and family-friendly books throughout the county.

In April 2017, Austin approached Boy Scout Troop 33 Scoutmaster Scott Anderson, asking him if he had a scout who was ready to begin working on his Eagle Scout Service Project. At the time, only one boy in Troop 33 — 16-year-old Louie Wabnitz, of Shepherdstown — was at the point where he could start planning out his project.

For Louie to complete the project, he had to follow expectations set out by the Little Free Library 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, which required him to use scrap wood to build each library. According to Louie’s mother, Jennifer Wabnitz, her hair stylist connected Louie with Hagerstown Kitchens, Inc., and from there the project took off.

“Hagerstown Custom Kitchens was willing to donate all of the wood for these little houses — we were stunned. We decided we didn’t want to paint them, we wanted to stain them, and let people see how beautiful the wood is,” Jennifer said.

According to Jennifer, Louie developed his organizational skills through this project, by leading a Little Free Library work party at his home. Several members of Troop 33 joined Louie to build the libraries, which have plexiglass doors that lift up, keeping the rain and wind from ruining the books.

Louie — who put his first library up in Morgan’s Grove Park on Friday — is working through a variety of challenges to complete his project, including finding locations for the libraries and dealing with rainy weather, which prevents the libraries’ cement bases from solidifying properly.

According to Louie, although dealing with these challenges has been difficult, they have also taught him a valuable life lesson.

“Patience is very important, because things will always take longer than you think they will,” Louie said.

Louie plans to place his second and third libraries in Sam Michael’s Park and in front of Kohut’s Shepherdstown home, as long as the locations are approved by the Jefferson County Parks and Recreation Board and Shepherdstown’s Planning Commission, respectively.

Despite the project’s challenges, Jennifer said doing a book-related service project was a natural fit for her son.

“He’s always been a pretty avid reader,” Jennifer said, mentioning her son is also a member of Jefferson High School’s cross country team, a cadet in Jefferson’s Air Force Junior ROTC Club and has gone on more than one mission’s trip, as a member of Covenant Church’s youth group.