Serving up Hope and Smiles in a Sand Box

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June 2016

The grassy fenced-in area on the corner of Broad and Brown Streets is somewhat of a special place for families at the Red Shield Residence. The Salvation Army Greater Philadelphia‘s transitional housing program is safe, loving, respectful and compassionate, providing families in crisis with shelter and services as they strive towards self-sufficiency. The yard next to the building is a space where families can let their kids play and enjoy some outdoor time together there as they navigate a difficult time in their lives. However in recent years, it was in need of some love and attention.

“We realized it needed a lot of work, but we also knew our efforts would be long-lasting for the people who live here,” said Andy Backstrom, a 17 year old Eagle Scout who headed up a project this spring to beautify the yard.

The project was a year in the making, but it finally started to take shape in April, when Andy, along with his older brother and a group of his fellow Eagle Scouts from Paoli Troop 1, put their plans into action. They arrived at Red Shield with truck loads of tools and supplies.

“The Scout motto is ‘Help other people at all times,’” said Dick Bensing, South Leader, Paoli Troop 1.

They built a new sand box and a garden area where they laid fresh soil and mulch for planting, as well as put fresh mulch around the playground area.  They also constructed what they refer to as a “Mother’s Bench” and fixed up portions of a broken fence.

Andy’s father, Jim Backstrom, is a long-time Salvation Army supporter, who couldn’t be prouder of his sons.

“I want them to do something greater than they are,” he said.

The beautified yard was officially dedicated to the families residing at Red Shield on June 30. The sand box was packed with laughing children, while The Salvation Army leadership and staff graciously thanked Andy and his friends for their hard work and dedication. All of the children also presented Andy with handmade cards.

“My hope is that people will have a lot of great memories from it,” Andy said.

IMG_5012A colorful mural depicting The Salvation Army’s history and community service looks down on the playground, a fixture for many years on the Red Shield Residence. Thanks to Andy and the Eagle Scouts, the yard below now embodies the same uplifting spirit and hope for families in need.

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