By Shawn Kirkpatrick
He represents the best of our county, community and country. Justin Rhoten began his journey serving others as a Cub Scout at age 8. Now the 18-year-old earned his Eagle Scout Badge building and installing a “Little Free Library” at Municipal “Monkey” Park.
It all began a couple of months ago at Justin’s Troop 354 meeting in Opelika, at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “Opelika Parks and Recreation officials contacted The Boy Scouts of America about wanting someone to build a book lending box. My local leaders knew I was looking for a project, and they told me about it,” Justin said.
He was sent a sample picture of a design that would follow in the train theme of the park, and went to work. Mark Beesley, a friend’s dad, helped Justin draw a rough design, generate a list of materials and helped with the construction. Lowe’s donated some of the material and gave Justin a discount on the rest. “I started building it at my friend’s house because his dad (Beesley) is a carpenter, and then we took it to my house where we did the sanding and painting and added lawnmower wheels,” Justin said. “Fellow scouts and friends also helped.”
Beesley and Justin’s dad, Darrell, helped him install the “Little Free Library” at the park. After that, it was time to fill it with books. “I got the books from people in my church and in my neighborhood who donated them. We also put the request for books on the church Facebook page,” Justin said. “There are books for all ages. Anyone can come and borrow a book, and when they’re done they can bring it back or keep it. Anyone can donate a book – a take one, leave one idea.”
Justin isn’t just an Eagle Scout, he’s also interested in the medical field. He has earned a spot as a student medical intern at East Alabama Medical Center next year. Justin is also a member of the National, Spanish and Math Honor Societies and is on the wrestling team at Auburn High School.
For fun, Justin said he plays the piano.
“Justin is a well-rounded young man,” said Troop 354 Scoutmaster Troy Brady. “He has a calm demeanor. He draws respect from the other boys,” Brady said. “They look up to him. Part of that comes from his maturity level. He’s easy going and easy to get along with. It’s easy for the other kids to like him.”
The “Little Free Library” is a permanent fixture in the park. Justin said he hopes the books make an impact on kids at the park for a long time.
For more information, take a book or leave a book at the “Little Free Library” or visit LittleFreeLibrary.org.