LINDON -- Chris Pack's Eagle Scout project has branched out to become a permanent part of his life.
When David Dickerson, Pack's youth adviser in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, let Pack know he was going to the Dominican Republic for a humanitarian trip, he saw it as a great chance for a worthwhile service project.
Pack set out to collect clothes for LDS missionaries in that country, but the project has expanded around the world. This project would fill a need, as missionaries around the world sometimes walk into the Missionary Training Center with only the clothes on their back.
"And sometimes that is only a T-shirt and jeans," said Heather Pack, his mother. "I'm a real believer that Scouts need to come up with their own project, something they can be excited about. It took Chris a year or two to come up with the idea."
Her son set out with the goal of collecting 100 shirts, 100 pairs of pants and 100 ties, in honor of 100 years of Scouting in America. He set up donation boxes in local schools and churches.
Items trickled in, but things really took off once the Pack family set up a Facebook page. Friends around the country pitched in, and the project exploded.
"My friend's husband had lost his job, and they had no money," said Heather Pack. "She emptied her PayPal account into ours because she loved this project so much. It was $4.72. All she had. I was in awe that someone would do something like that."
Then came the magic phone call. Chris Pack received news that The Missionary Mall had heard of his project, and they wanted to donate. They sent more than 200 shirts. Then they asked if he needed pants, and they sent those as well. The Missionary Mall continues to send shirts whenever the business has some to spare.
"We decided it would be a good idea to get the Scouts involved by taking shirts home and washing them," said Heather Pack. "Then we taught them how to iron them. This is good preparation for them to serve a mission one day."
Twenty boys gathered in the chapel with 12 irons and ironing boards. They also sized the shirts, matched them with a tie, and boxed them up. In two hours, 300 shirts and ties were processed.
Chris Pack and Dickerson were able to personally deliver the shirts in April. They spent the first four days performing dental work in some of the most economically depressed areas in the Dominican Republic. On the fifth day, they delivered the clothes to the president of the Missionary Training Center in Santa Domingo.
"The president was all smiles," said Chris Pack. "He said lots of missionaries come without any white shirts and ties. To be able to give them that was so cool -- to know you are actually helping them with something."
Because of baggage restrictions, Chris Pack was only able to take 100 shirts, ties and pants with him on this trip.
"We filled the shelves at the MTC," said Heather Pack. "Now the problem was what are we going to do with all these extra donations?" Heather Pack was not able to be completely involved, as she was working on a graduate degree in non-profit administration, but her recent degree in the same focus proved serendipitous, and the "Branching Out" organization was born.
They started spreading the word and asking if anyone flying to a country in need would be willing to take some shirts and ties. So far, MTCs and church branches in Nicaragua, Paraguay, Samoa, and Peru have been recipients of the gathered donations.
Chris Pack continues to gather, size, package and distribute the missionary attire.
Jarilyn Cox from Kaysville did an internship over the summer in rural Paraguay and offered to take some of the shirts down to the local branch.
"The Benjamin Aceval Branch only had a small weekly attendance, but they had three young men who had just turned in their mission papers, and the donations were an answer to prayers," she said. "They all came from very humble circumstances, and it was a great experience for me to be able to participate in such an act of service."
The project was successful because they zeroed in on a real need.
"It's easy for those of us with material goods to donate, but it changes these peoples' lives," said Heather Pack. "Receiving a shirt and tie sends the message that there is someone out there who cares and wants you to serve."
"It gave me a greater appreciation for my life," Chris Pack said. "Everywhere I've been in the United States is so much nicer than how they live in the Dominican Republic. It made me grateful for what I have here, and very grateful to be able to help out."
The Branching Out organization is happily accepting new or gently used white shirts and ties, and women's clothing for sister missionaries. E-mail email@example.com for donation locations. The PayPal account for monetary donations is BranchingOut.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Help with washing and ironing shirts or delivering shirts to a developing country is always greatly appreciated.
"This project really spoke to us," Heather Pack said. "We just didn't realize how much it would speak to others as well. It is so rewarding to hear the stories and the difference a white shirt and tie can make."