Cherry Hill Scout forges path for Voorhees parishioners

Stapleton’s project provides accessibility at Hope United Methodist Church.

Well into his senior year at Cherry Hill High School East, Joseph Stapleton recently completed his Eagle Scout Project. A member of BSA Troop 166, Stapleton’s project was to build a paved walkway at Hope United Methodist Church in Voorhees. The new path extends from the sidewalk by the disabled parking spaces to the church’s side door, and is sloped to make it consistent with guidelines in the Americans with Disabilities Act. He also added landscaping elements to beautify the area, while also choosing native plants that attract pollinators to help the environment. (Photo Credit: Jim Stapleton/Special to the Sun)

Township native Joseph Stapleton, well into his senior year at Cherry Hill High School East, would like to become a dentist someday.

But before he immerses himself in ways to improve oral health, he’s done his part to ensure the faithful at one Voorhees house of worship see their physical health looked after.

Stapleton, who is entering his sixth year involved with Scouting, is a proud member of BSA Troop 166, which meets at Holy Eucharist Church on Kresson Road. Over the summer, he completed an Eagle Scout project to build a paved walkway at Hope United Methodist Church that connects the building’s doorways with its disabled parking spots.

“I did it because I wanted to help the community, because (Hope United) is the church that I regularly attend,” Stapleton said in a conversation with the Sun on Oct. 13. “I asked them if they needed anything done on the property, and so I thought I’d do a walkway, because there was nothing in that area but dirt and mud.”

Thinking of the church’s most vulnerable population, Stapleton envisioned a lane where people could be more easily evacuated in case of emergencies.

“When I was thinking about how to build, I realized it had to be ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessible, and so I planned to construct it with a bit of a slope,” he revealed.

Plans for the new construction had been in the works for over a year, and, predictably, the onset of COVID-19 delayed Stapleton’s effort. Discussions with Hope United began around the holidays and were approved in the winter, but the pandemic forced the walkway’s construction to be sidelined until summer.

“The project officially started in August,” Stapleton recalled. “But I took all the time (when) things were interrupted due to COVID to plan out things properly, to figure out a day where I could do everything at once. Near the end of the summer, I finally was able to find a day to execute the project.”

Once on site, Stapleton said the plan was to complete the walkway in two parts: Day one was for digging and day two was concentrated on paving and finishing.

“But since everything went so well on the first day, I was able to finish that same day,” he noted. “I had to go back later for some minor touches, put down grass seed so that grass will grow around it.”

The solo undertaking gained a special touch recently when Stapleton added a plaque and mounted it near the walkway, to commemorate his involvement and the date of completion. He also added native plants that attract pollinators to help the environment.

With a good deed done, Stapleton is turning his attention to college applications. His future plans aren’t completely set in stone, but they involve staying in the Garden State.

“I’m looking at Rutgers in New Brunswick, and I want to study biology. There are a few other places I’ve applied to, but Rutgers is where I really want to attend,” he added.