By Michael Coughlin Jr.
Ceva Stanley, a local teen, gave back to her community over the summer in a big way by building outdoor furniture for the Connolly Branch Library located on Centre Street.
Stanley, who worked alongside a friend at scout camp following the pandemic, said she got very involved with the program and eventually joined Troop 7193-Winchendon, where she started working toward Eagle Scout ranking.
As part of the pursuit to become an Eagle Scout, Stanley was tasked with a project. “It’s a very open-ended project. The goal is to do something to benefit your community, and you can define community in any way you like,” she said.
In the process of brainstorming an idea for her project, Stanley explained that she thought of places that had meaning to her. She also explained that she was leaning toward doing something with books for the project.
“When I was younger, I spent a lot of time at that branch of the library,” said Stanley. Later, adding, “It was a meaningful place for me.”
Stanley then stopped by the library to speak with staff and determine if there was something she could do, and there was. As part of the project, Stanley was the driving force in building a picnic table and Adirondack chairs for the outdoor space at the Connolly Branch Library.
Moreover, this project was about more than just building. Stanley developed a proposal for the project and submitted it to a council above her troop, planned out the project, raised around $1,000, ordered supplies, got together a team to help build the furniture, transported it, and did a report on the process afterward for the council.
It should be noted that not only was furniture built for the library, but the leftover money that was raised was also donated to the library.
In speaking about the experience and how she felt about being able to give back to a place she described as meaningful, Stanley said, “It makes me happy when I walk past, and I see people sitting in the chairs or something and knowing that it’s getting used.”
“I mean, it’s a small library in the city, but people can go outside, and they can read, and they can have this extra space to just enjoy,” she added.
Emily Todd, the Connolly Branch Librarian, explained that the outdoor furniture is something the library wanted and would allow the library to activate its backyard, whether that be through programs or even just a spot for staff and patrons to enjoy.
Although Todd mentioned that the library has been unable to run programs due to rain since it received the furniture around Labor Day, there has been an uptick in folks using the backyard.
“From my office, I see patrons sitting out there and reading; I see them enjoying the space. I see parents and caregivers sitting in the backyard with kids after storytime to have a snack or maybe eat some lunch, and then that also allows them to enjoy our community garden, which is back there,” said Todd.
Though Todd was not the Branch Librarian when Stanley was younger, she expressed her excitement that the library was picked for the project and described it as a success story for public libraries.
“We were incredibly honored and thrilled that she had selected us as a site,” said Todd.
“It shows how important libraries are to the community and the impact that we make on kids’ lives, and it really means a lot to library staff when community members approach us in these ways and ask us what they can do to help us,” she added.
Stanley, who is 18 years old, has technically aged out and is no longer considered a scout but says she plans on continuing to participate with her troop as an assistant Scout Master and taking on a leadership position.
Further, Stanley, a Senior at Boston Latin School, thinks this project will help her later down the line as she sets her eyes on a path of scientific research and gets ready to apply to schools such as Yale University.
“I think although they’re not exactly similar subjects, I think a lot of the skills in scouting and this project really do transfer — like leadership roles and working as a team and having to problem solve — I think are all skills that are really going to transfer and help me in college and in research,” said Stanley.