Making history was never Megan Harris' plan, but she managed to do it anyway.
When the Boy Scouts of America began accepting females as potential Eagle Scouts in February 2019, Harris was thrilled. Her parents were scoutmasters for her younger brother's pack, and since the third grade, she had always tagged along and participated but was not an official member or eligible to receive accomplishment badges.
The new ruling gave her scouting career a life and she was excited, not to make a political statement, but rather to get the most possible benefits out of the program. With the help of her mother, Harris immediately mapped her goals to become part of the inaugural class of female Eagle Scouts.
The 17-year-old Churubusco High School senior was officially named northeast Indiana's first female Eagle Scout on Jan. 21 after passing her board of review.
There are approximately 3,000 scout members ages 11 to 17 in the 11-county Anthony Wayne Area Council and 2.1 million nationally. Only 6% achieve Eagle Scout status, according to Anthony Wayne Area Council Executive Director John Gliot.
Potential Eagle Scouts are required to take on a leadership role within their troop and the community, earn a minimum of 21 merit badges in a range of topics and must research, organize and complete a community service project that requires between 70 and 150 hours. To be part of the inaugural class, Harris had to complete her Eagle Scout project before Feb. 8 and before her 18th birthday June 10.
“She got it done in less than 24 months which is very impressive,” Gliot said. “The minimum time from scout to Eagle Scout is 19 months.”
But Harris also had to complete her project during COVID-19 restrictions which prohibited large gatherings, forcing her to adjust.
So far, she's one of the first three female Eagle Scouts in the state and the first female selected to the local 300-member Order of the Arrow, a national scouting honor society.
Harris noticed that the flag retirement mailbox outside American Legion Post 253 in North Webster needed a major restoration. Commander Larry Burkhart guesses it was probably 20 years since the box had received any attention.
She approached Burkhart to show him drawings by her engineer father of what she proposed. With his consent, she started writing up the paperwork for Scouts organization approval which she received in September. Her plan was to repaint the mailbox and also build a retirement box where the flags would be stored until the proper Flag Day ceremonies.
The entire project cost an estimated $500 for wood, primer, paint and decals, which Harris raised in two weeks by selling 450 pounds of sausage in 5-pound packages in Churubusco, Columbia City and North Webster.
The mailbox was sandblasted by another scoutmaster then painted in the family driveway. Harris also approached Columbia City's Blue River Digital about creating the patriotic emblem she found on Shutterfly.
The storage box was started in her grandfather's Bluffton barn workshop. It measured 6 feet by 2 feet by 4 feet and weighed about 300 pounds. The paint job includes her grandmother's design of stars and stripes. That project required about five weeks, Harris said.
Eventually, 10 people helped with Harris serving as project manager. The revitalized mailbox and flag storage cabinet were presented to the Legion Post on Dec. 20.
“The thing is, if I need anything else like that, I'm going to get hold of Megan,” Burkhart said. “God, she's probably one of the very finest young ladies you are ever going to run into, courteous and kind and she just has that attitude that she looks out for other people.”
Harris estimated about 90 hours of work were involved in the project, which is considerable considering she's also a National Honor Society student, a show choir member and also works part time. Sometimes she even sleeps.
“To me, I just liked the idea of doing something better for the community,” Harris said. “I had no idea it would have such a big affect on other people in other communities who heard about it and really appreciated it. I know what I did made other people feel happy, too.”
Her next goals are to graduate and continue taking classes at Ivy Tech to become a physical therapist. She'll also continue mentoring younger scouts and hopes to become a den leader and eventually an assistant scoutmaster.
She's already been back to visit the American Legion post and drop off some flags into the new flag retirement mailbox.
“Sometimes it's still shocking to think I'm making history,” she said.