GREEN BAY — Imagine that you share a small sleeping area with another person. The amount of floor space next to the bunk beds is limited, yet it’s where you must keep all of your personal items. That was the situation for guests staying in the women’s sobriety room at St. John the Evangelist Homeless Shelter. Thanks to the efforts of Austin Gallenberger, these women now have ample storage space.
Gallenberger, a sophomore at Luxemburg-Casco High School, tackled the storage issue for his Eagle Scout project. He constructed six individual units that were fastened together to create 24 square spaces for personal belongings. The entire structure, built within an old closet space, spans 138 inches in length and is 80 inches high.
“They had to put their things by their beds. When you have two ladies, it was piled high,” explained Angela Mihalko, operations director at the shelter. “This space was once a classroom. This used to be the donation room. When we acquired the upstairs, we shifted the donation room upstairs turning this into a women’s sobriety room. We had walls built and the bunk beds fit in nicely. They have their own sitting room. We really needed something organizational.”
Mike Keene, who is involved with the Boy Scouts and the shelter, connected Gallenberger to the project. The task was “pretty self-explanatory,” said Gallenberger, 16. Fundraising was his first action.
“I asked a bunch of different organizations in our local area,” said Gallenberger, a member of Boy Scout Troop #1173. “One nice thing is I showed toy tractors at the Point Beach Nuclear Plant in Manitowoc. They gave me Manitowoc bucks, so I could only use them in the county, so we decided to go to Lowe’s.”
When Gallenberger told a Lowe’s employee about his project, the store manager arranged for a 40 percent discount. Heritage Woodworks Inc. of Green Bay assisted with the lumber. The units were built with 3/4-inch birch plywood.
“Everything was cut by a CNC (computer numeric control) machine, so everything was precise,” said Gallenberger, the son of Bob and Lynn Gallenberger. “We didn’t have to cut everything twice.”
The Eagle Scout candidate is supposed to lead the project and not do all the labor. Gallenberger recruited fellow Boy Scouts and adults as part of his team.
“You can’t help with the project at all,” he said. “That’s the one thing that really bugged me.”
His work crews spent two days varnishing the units in space provided at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay. Gallenberger said the project was a learning experience, starting with talking to groups to raise funds. He spoke to the Catholic Order of Foresters, St. Joseph Court Pilsen 2080 and Denmark Knights of Columbus, Council 4735. He also received support from U-Haul, east Green Bay location, and Steele Chiropractic in Kewaunee, and personal donations from relatives, neighbors and friends.
“It really taught me what adulthood is like,” said Gallenberger. “You have to budget everything and know what your prices are. Not everything you plan goes to plan.”
Gallenberger budgeted wisely. He had $100 left, which he used to purchase napkins and coffee for the homeless shelter.
“I knew I was going to donate, because it was the right thing to do,” he said.
The project included some challenges. Anchoring the unit required the removal of vertical wood closet beams which were attached to the back wall horizontally. The structure was then attached to the former beams.
“The other problem is the floor is uneven,” explained Gallenberger, “so if you look at the shelves, it looks like steps.”
Gallenberger‘s past service experience includes a mission trip last summer to St. Louis as part of Young Neighbors in Action. Lynn, his mother, formed the youth group at St. Therese de Lisieux Parish, Stangelville. The family lives less than a mile from the parish’s St. Joseph-St. John site in Pilsen. Gallenberger will be making a mission trip to Chicago this summer as part of the youth group.
“In St. Louis, the first four days, we helped this guy in not a great place,” he said. “We helped him clean up the neighborhood. They had a community garden where everybody had their own garden plot. We helped people by weeding and cleaning everything out for them. The last day, we helped people out in the local area who needed it by serving food.”
In addition to this summer’s mission trip, Gallenberger will also be traveling to New Mexico for a Boy Scout hiking trip in the Grand Canyon. He needs to complete five merit badge requirements and paperwork for his project to become an Eagle Scout.
When Gallenberger returned to the shelter to drop off the napkins and coffee, he saw personal items in the storage space for the first time. It is a good feeling knowing his project filled a need, he said.
“I love having the Boy Scouts come here,” said Mihalko. “They do such a nice job and it’s fun to see them go through the process.”