Nov 30, 2012 2:30 PM by Lauren Molenburg
LUDLOW, Mass. (AP) - Teenager Nathan Drewniak helped victims of domestic violence by collecting hundreds of old cell phones that were turned in for a nearly $1,000 donation to aid the YWCA of Western Massachusetts, and his good deed contributed to his attaining the status of Eagle Scout.
Over a two-month period in the spring, Drewniak, 15, gathered up 610 either broken or no longer used cell phones and had them shipped to Shelter Alliance, a Florida business that recycles them and provides fund-raising revenue to organizations in need.
In turn, Shelter Alliance sent a check for $944.25, which was donated at Drewniak's request to the YWCA of Western Massachusetts' Domestic Violence Shelter program in Springfield.
The project was one piece of Drewniak's Eagle Scout requirements. In addition, he earned 21 merit badges (only 12 of which were required) and took on a six-month leadership role in assisting other Scouts with training for their badges. Eagle Scout is the highest rank attainable in the program.
"It was very tough for me to do but I'm proud that I've done it and I'm grateful for the leaders, friends and family who helped me to complete it," Drewniak said. "I also learned that I'm a dedicated worker because I've done all the merit badges, and I know I can be a leader because of my cell phone project."
Dawn DiStefano, director of resource development at the YWCA, said Drewniak's selfless act benefited the organization in a large way.
"These days our expenses are more and our funding less. We run a deficit every year operating this program, so every little bit helps," said DiStefano, noting that the shelter serves 48 women and children per day. "This young man and his family are not looking for notoriety. They're very humble, humble people who are grateful for what they have, and I think it's refreshing."
Drewniak's mother, Linda, said she and her husband, Daniel, feel the project's experience was about more than just earning Eagle Scout status for their son.
"He learned so much from this from the planning, the organizing and the public speaking. We're just so proud of him," she said. "After coming (to the YWCA) and learning about how dangerous life can be, he knows he is very fortunate not to be in that situation."
Drewniak's two older brothers, Eric, 23, and Christopher, 20, have also achieved Eagle Scout status. Christopher's achievement is made more impressive, say Nathan and his mother, because he has Down syndrome.
Drewniak said he got the idea to collect cell phones when he received a new one last Christmas but did not know what to do with the old one. He went to the Ludlow Police Department because he had heard people dispose of them there. While at the station, he learned that organizations such as the YWCA can use old phones for battered women and single moms to provide them with security.
"I thought that would be perfect for my Eagle Scout project," said Drewniak, who is a sophomore at Holyoke Catholic High School in Chicopee.
Drewniak spent 150 hours on the project, including speaking at Ludlow church services and putting a notice in their bulletins, and asking parishioners to bring their old or broken cell phones to the following week's services. His fellow Scouts assisted in the collections, which also took place at the Ludlow Public Library, Town Hall, and Police and Fire departments.
When speaking at the churches, Drewniak said he joked that he had "a homework assignment for you and it's due next weekend."
At a minimum, the unworkable cell phones sent to Shelter Alliance will garner 50 cents each; cell phones that can be fixed or dismantled and the parts reused earn a higher price, sometimes up to $30. Drewniak's goal was to collect 400 cell phones, which he is proud to have surpassed by more than 200.
Besides his involvement in the Boy Scouts, Drewniak fills his weeks with participation in Holyoke Catholic's math club, juggling and unicycle club and the varsity tennis team. He also volunteers on Sundays to help package meals for the elderly and homebound through his church, St. Francis of Assisi in Belchertown.
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
Photo Credit: Judith Kelliher, The Republican via masslive.com