Colin Yoder, a Life Scout from Myerstown, Pa. has almost reached the pinnacle of his quest to achieve the highest rank in the Boy Scouts of America.

Once a scout earns 21 merit badges, in a diverse range of responsibilities that include community citizenship, physical fitness, emergency preparedness, environmental science, cycling, camping, family life and more, the scout can apply for the Eagle Scout badge. Yoder has reached that point in his scouting experience.

Yoder has completed his application, and just one step remains before he will be honored with Eagle Scout status. He must create and complete a meaningful community-focused project.

“I gave this a lot of thought, and then one morning, when I was still in bed, it just popped into my head,” he said. “It would be special for Myerstown to have its own First Responders Memorial.”

Some of the inspiration came from his experience serving on the planning team for the Lebanon County First Responders Memorial near the new 911 Center in North Cornwall.

Read More: First responders commitment to Lebanon County is thick as a brick

“I admit it is a big undertaking,” he continued, “but I feel the plan can achieve the goal of a local First Responders Memorial for our greater Myerstown community with a simple, yet meaningful structure.”

The completed memorial will display, on three sides, individual prayers honoring EMTs, firefighters and police. The fourth sides will include credit for Yoder and sponsor identifications.

The Three Prayers

EMS Prayer – “As I perform my duty, Lord, whatever the call, help to guide and keep me safe from dangers big and small. I want to serve and do my best, no matter what the scene. I pledge to keep my skills refined, my judgement quick and keen. This calling to give myself, most do not understand. But I stand ready all the time to help my fellow man. To have the chance to help a child, restore his laugh with glee. A word of thanks I might not hear but knowing is enough for me. The praise of men is fine for some, but I feel truly blessed, oh Lord, that you have chosen me to serve in EMS.” (L. Lipps)

A Firefighter’s Prayer – “When I am called to duty, God, wherever flames may rage, give me the strength to save some life, whatever be its age. Help me embrace a little child, before it is too late, or save an older person from the horror of the fate. Enable me to be alert and hear the weakest shout. And quickly and efficiently put the fire out. I want to fill my calling, and to give the best in me, to guard every neighbor and protect their property. And if according to your will, I must lose my life, please bless with your protecting hand my children and my wife.” (A.W. “Smokey” Linn)

Police Officer’s Prayer – “Lord, I ask for courage. Courage to face and conquer my own fears. Courage to take me where others will not go. I ask for strength. Strength of body to protect others. And strength of spirit to lead others. I ask for dedication. Dedication to my job, to do it well. Dedication to my community, to keep it safe. Give me Lord, concern for others who trust me. And compassion for those who need me. And please Lord, through it all, be at my side.” (Author Unknown)

Determined to succeed

Yoder approached the Goodwill Fire Company, who agreed to provide the land and the electricity for the memorial. Yoder is a volunteer fireman at Goodwill, and the relationship helped him get the commitment. The proposed location for the memorial is at the busy intersection of Locust and Washington Streets in Myerstown, at the edge of the Goodwill Fire Company parking lot.

The initial conceptual design for the memorial was done by Mark Snyder of Snyder Landscaping & Property Maintenance, Bernville, Pa. “I met Colin through my fiancé, Colin’s cousin Kaitlin,” Snyder explained. “We talked about the project, and I offered a design suggestion that includes hardscaping and the memorial. We are all anxious to see it happen.”

Using Snyder’s diagram as a start, the final product will include a first responder statue on top of the memorial, and three flag poles with lighting so the display will be visible 24 hours a day.

The electric lines from the back of the firehouse to the memorial will be the responsibility of Seth Keefer from Blatt & Myers, Electricians, in Myerstown. Yoder has the path determined and plans to do the trenching himself. The electricity will allow the flagpoles to be lit at night.

Show me the money

Yoder has already taken the project to next level. He has estimates for landscaping, memorial construction, and flagpole resources. He has personally marked the grassy area to determine the exact location of the memorial and the flagpoles, carefully planning so underground water and electricity are not disturbed by the construction.

Estimates in hand, he is now approaching potential resources for funding. He sought advice from his father, realtor Kevin Yoder, who advised him to approach some key Myerstown businesses. He did this, and the reception to his proposal has been very positive. He has already received support from Myerstown Beverage Company and Morrissey TV and Appliances. Tom Morrissey said, “I am impressed that young people like Colin would like to do things for our community. I fully support his effort to succeed.” Morrissey noted that his son is also involved in scouting.

Yoder presented his proposal to the Myerstown-Elco Rotary Club, Jackson Township, and the Myerstown VFW. He is awaiting feedback and remains cautiously optimistic. Yoder has contacted Myerstown Borough Manager Michael McKenna, and is planning to present a proposal to Myerstown Borough Council.

One organization he will not approach for additional help is the Goodwill Fire Company. “They have done enough by providing the land and the offer to cover the utilities cost. They have limited funds. They need to use that money to keep the fire department going,” Yoder notes.

The total cost to turn the plan into a completed memorial is approximately $13,000. “It is my goal to have this project completed by July. My due date for the Eagle Scout project is July 27,” Yoder said.

A caring family

Caring about others is in the Yoder family DNA. Yoder’s mother, Bobbie, is a nurse with Penn State Health. His sister Meagan is a third year nursing student at Misericordia College in Wilkes Barre. And Yoder’s girlfriend, Alyssa, a freshman at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, is studying nursing as well. His brothers Talon, 12, and Mason, 10, are still young, but the odds are in their favor of becoming good community citizens as well when they get older.

Yoder is a senior at Myerstown-Elco High School. He works as department manager of the Lawn and Garden Department at the Myerstown Ace Hardware Store. “I love the job. It fits my lifestyle,” he said.

Yoder loves camping, hiking and being outdoors. “I enjoyed mowing lawns to earn money when I was younger, so my job at Ace Hardware relates to all of this,” he said.

He is also a volunteer fireman, which makes his passion for the memorial that much more special and personal.

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