COVID-19 is not like cancer, an illness which can be ignored by all except the individual diagnosed with the disease and those who share emotional bonds with that individual. Nearly everyone is affected directly or indirectly by the pandemic.
For three young men -- Willem Sunde, Andrew Ersland and Kaden Krusemark -- who have been waiting to be awarded the rank of Eagle Scout, the wait has been long. Although their projects were completed before the pandemic brought scouting events to a halt, the ceremony honoring their achievement was delayed until July.
Sunde coordinated a project which involved building more than a dozen wood duck houses for Lake Herman State Park.
"I led all the scouts, showing them how to do it," he said. He chose the project both because he's done some woodworking and because he enjoys hunting.
"I've grown up around it," Sunde indicated.
John Bame, district park manager, explained the houses provide habitat that park maintenance would otherwise limit. Wood ducks, unlike other local species, do not nest on the ground, but in holes created by woodpeckers or in naturally occurring holes in a dead tree.
"At Lake Herman we must limit the number of dead trees due to safety to the general public," Bame said. "This really limits the amount of nesting the wood duck has to choose from."
The wood duck houses compensate for this and provide safe nesting for the wood ducks. They are designed to prevent predators from getting in.
"The wood duck houses help the ducks to continue to reproduce, providing a more well-rounded ecosystem. The more native plants and animals I can promote at Lake Herman State Park, the better the park will be," Bame indicated.
Sunde said it only took a couple of hours for members of Troop 5 to construct the houses. Although he had also planned to coordinate efforts to install the wood duck houses, safety guidelines implemented in response to the pandemic prevented him from doing so.
Bame said the houses have been installed so they are ready for spring. Having watched a pair choose a house to nest and then coax their young to leave within days of being hatched, he encourages anyone living near water to consider installing one.
"I have seen one of them come by my house to check out the wood duck house," he said. "Moments later the first one is leading its mate to check out the wood duck house as well. It's almost like they inspect it, making sure it is the right fit for the family."
Sunde said he learned the importance of planning in coordinating a project which involves supervising others.
"The more planning you do, the smoother the project," he said.
Ersland also did a project at Lake Herman State Park. He coordinated efforts to build a boardwalk at the Luce Cabin. (The Daily Leader reported on the project at the time it was completed.)
Kaden Krusemark was looking for something a little different when he embarked upon his Eagle Scout project.
"Most people do something with the state park or some other outdoor facility," he said.
As a member of the Madison Public Library's Teen Board for several years, it was natural for him to turn to children's librarian Lisa Martin. She offered him several possibilities and he chose to make a special bookshelf for the children's section.
"It's at a height where children have easier access to the books," Martin explained.
Krusemark indicated the bookshelf is designed to hold baskets. The books are stacked in the baskets so that children can flip through them much as a shopper might flip through vinyl records in a store.
Martin likes the fact the bookshelf is on wheels and can be moved and used for different projects as needed. Unfortunately, with COVID-19, the shelf has been temporarily put away.
"We're excited for when we can use it again," she said.
Krusemark learned two important lessons about leadership in coordinating the project. He learned the importance of seeking assistance from experts. When he realized the plans required more knowledge than he had, he turned to Curt Eliason of Howard for help in building the project.
"The blueprints that Lisa gave me were a little hard for me to figure out," he explained.
Eliason worked with a small group of scouts in his shop to construct the bookshelf, which was then finished by Stacy Krusemark, Kaden's dad, and Cole Kratovil. Krusemark said the decision to have a small team was intentional.
"I didn't want to have too many scouts there because it was a small project," he indicated.
The second lesson about leadership he learned involved the challenge of supervising others. He said that he's always been the one taking orders and getting things done.
"Being in charge of people is a lot different," he said.
He illustrated with a story. While the shelf was being constructed, his dad was taking pictures and four individuals were engaged in activities related to the project -- cutting, sanding, gluing pieces together. He realized more help was needed and had to remind himself to ask his dad to assist.
"I'm more used to just doing things myself," Krusemark said.
Because he is studying at Dakota State University, he is hoping to be one of the adults who helps with a local troop. He noted that he enjoyed being in Scouts and was impressed when he was younger by the Eagle Scouts who remained involved.
"They were just so cool," Krusemark said.