Eagle Scout beautifies garden at ACLD residence


With the summer sun shining , the twelve  residents of the Oceanside residence for Adults and Children with Learning and Developmental Disabilities (ACLD) have been spending a lot of their time watching out their front window, as birds gather in front of the newly placed standing feeder. Not only do the birds enjoy the shaded spot to eat and rest, but the residents have enjoyed gathering in the living room, practically every day, to observe the birds with one another.

This is all due to a Boy Scout from Rockville Centre Troop 163, William McManus, who had chosen to improve the residency’s garden for his Eagle Scout project. McManus, a 16-year-old junior at Chaminade High School, led the outdoor makeover on May 22, putting in four raised planters and filling them with flowers and vegetables, as well as setting up the bird feeder.

“The residents have always liked to garden, so the raised planters were a big help to them because they didn’t have to kneel on the ground anymore. They are also more accessible for the wheelchairs,” said McManus, when explaining why he had chosen the garden project. “I talked to the house manager about it, with a bunch of ideas, but this one seemed to be the most beneficial.”

McManus has an uncle, Warren Yee, who has lived at the Oceanside residency for 20 years. The McManus family is well-known within the house, as they visit frequently for Yee, who has Cerebral Palsy, and have gotten to know the other residents along the way. Yee had said McManus is “a very good nephew,” and that he was proud of him.

McManus’ volunteer work was partly inspired by his mom, Debby McManus, who had started her own project within the house, where she paints the windows every week with seasonal designs or to celebrate a resident’s upcoming birthday. Not only does it make the residents happy, but the staff also enjoy seeing the artwork when they come into work.

“It goes beyond the garden,” said Randy Brown, the residence coordinator. “Everything that Will and his mom do is very helpful. It’s so rare to find families that are genuinely involved that we can call, not for just their own family member, but for everyone in the house.”

On the day of the renovation, a few of the residents had helped to plant the flowers and the vegetables. One of the residents who was there, Barbara Dubin, said she enjoyed being able to help the troops plant the flowers. “Everyone looked nice, and it was a lot of fun. I was so happy.” The bird feeder had reminded her of a similar bird feeder at a lake that she used to go swimming at often with her family when she was younger.

Another resident, Lauren Covelman, found sanctuary in the new garden, as it helped her grieve with the recent passing of her mother. “I like the garden because it makes me feel like my mother is here with me, “said Covelman. “It’s not just flowers, it’s herbs and tomatoes too. My mother was a wonderful cook.”

The flowers and vegetables had all been donated by Atlantic Nursery in Freeport, while the planter and bird feeder had been made possible through a GoFundMe that McManus started for the project. The residents expressed their fondness in taking care of the garden and watering the flowers, and since the tomatoes have grown, a few members of the household have even enjoyed them in their salads.

“When there were no plants, to me, it didn’t look good, it needed this,” said resident John Harupa, who is passionate about gardening, since he used to do it with his dad often. The garden served to connect a few members of the household with their past and remind them of the fond memories they had made when they were younger with their families. McManus said the best part of this project was being to help his uncle and the other residents, as he has known them his whole life.

ACLD is a not-for-profit agency with a mission to provide opportunities to more than 1,200 children and adults with learning and developmental disabilities. The Oceanside residence is one of 46 homes operated by ACLD in Nassau and Suffolk Counties that provide varying levels of daily living support to enhance residents’ growth and development. Arline Moore, the assistant manager, said they often take the residents on recreational trips, including boat rides, visits to the aquarium and they are currently planning a trip to Pennsylvania.

ACLD accepts both group and individual volunteers year-round for various projects like this one. If interested in volunteering, email klaums@acld.org.