Eagle Scout projects are intended to be difficult and rigorous ventures which provide prospective Eagle Scouts with leadership and growing opportunities. But one Boy Scout took his project beyond that and wanted to make as meaningful an impact as possible.
Colby Carter, 16, of Springville, presented the Provo Police Department on Wednesday with a check for $2,400 he fundraised for his Eagle Scout project. The money will go to the department’s homeless assistance initiative, which provides homeless individuals with warm sleeping equipment in the winter.
In Feb. 2015, Sgt. Brian Taylor with the Provo Police Department began purchasing coats online that convert into sleeping bags. These coats are specifically designed for homeless individuals so they can wear their sleeping bags during the day instead of worrying about lugging them around with them.
“We still find people under the overpass,” Taylor said. “In the wintertime, I used to supervise the graveyard shift and the patrol officers on the shift would find homeless people struggling to stay alive for lack of a sleeping system.”
This is the third year Taylor has helped purchase and distribute these coats to the homeless, and has since donated more than 24 coats.
But with Colby’s donation of $2,400, this pays for another 24 coats to help the homeless this year.
Colby was inspired to help this cause when he first heard about it in 2015 and also saw the homeless crisis in Salt Lake City. It was about the same time he needed to solidify a project to earn Eagle Scout rank in the Boy Scouts of America.
“I thought, ‘They must be cold in the winter,’ and I saw this on the news and thought it was a great idea. We should help collect donations for them and help them buy some coats,” Colby said.
For nearly two years, Colby collected donations from businesses, whether monetary or otherwise, to help with the cause and to earn his Eagle Scout. Donations that weren’t monetary, such as gift baskets or food items, were then auctioned at a dinner last spring. More than 55 items were auctioned.
“I’m really happy that we got this much,” Colby said. “I didn’t think we’d get this much. I thought we’d get maybe $500.”
Lynette Carter, Colby’s mother, was proud of her son, particularly in his attention to the cause of aiding the homeless.
Carter worked in the Provo City Center Temple during its open house last winter alongside a homeless woman.
“It was the greatest thing for her to be there,” she said. “She would walk all night long to keep warm and then sleep during the day.”
Carter told the woman about her son’s Eagle Scout project, and the homeless woman was brought to tears in gratitude for his charity.
“She said, ‘You tell him thank you, because it takes a wonderful kid like Colby to think about someone other than himself,’” Carter said.
Police Chief John King expressed admiration for Colby’s dedication over such a period of time. Without it, King said, the whole project may not have come to fruition.
“It wasn’t just going and getting donations. He had to plan how to use them, be a force multiplier to get more funds, and not only was it cool about the donations, but as he was building this up, he got to discuss the issue with people in the community and make them aware,” King said.
Taylor said the donation makes it possible for the department to extend the program to other agencies. The Utah County Sheriff’s Office has expressed shared interest in providing these coats to the homeless, as well as neighboring agencies.
Taylor recognized that the coats are not the resolution of homelessness in Utah County, but it’s an issue they couldn’t just turn a blind eye to.
“It’s not a solution to the problem, but it’s morally insufficient for the police to go around and kick people off private property because they’re trying to stay warm by the vent at the bank,” Taylor said. “It’s a great thing that people like Colby make it possible for this to happen. At its core, this is not a police initiative. This is citizens doing good things for other citizens.”