When the COVID-19 pandemic reared its ugly head a year ago, everyone wondered how they would handle it – working from home, staying away from favorite places, even avoiding friends and family.
Yvan Edwards used his pandemic time to do good.
The 17-year-old spent his pandemic year building bird houses – hundreds of them – that will become a birdhouse therapy wall at Stoney Glen, an assisted living home operated by the Village Learning Center for those with learning and developmental disabilities.
He lives in Kingwood with his parents, Arlene and Juan Martinez, and his 15-year-old sister, Alani.
- Scout from Kingwood creates “therapy wall” for Village Learning Center -
“I wanted to allow the Stoney Glenn residents and staff to have a reprieve from the pandemic and the stress of everyday life,” said Edwards. “I decided to create a birdhouse therapy wall that would offer a peaceful escape while helping with wildlife conservation, too.”
Edwards was motivated because he was looking for an Eagle Scout project and he wanted to add joy to the villagers’ daily life as they gaze out their windows, rest on their patio, or walk to school “viewing nature at its best in their own backyard,” he said.
Edwards got to know the villagers from his participation with the Young Men Service League (YMSL), a national organization with a Kingwood chapter made up of moms and their teenage sons who volunteer together during high school to serve their communities.
Together with his sister, who is in the National Charity League, Edwards spent almost three years volunteering at the village.
“We met the villagers for monthly bingo parties, bowling, ice cream socials and assisting them at the village school when needed and developing priceless friendships,” he said.
The pandemic abruptly restricted Edwards’ visits so he reached out to Vince Comeaux, Stoney Glenn home manager. They talked about the sadness the villagers faced with such an isolated change in routine. Both thought bird watching would improve morale.
“Wild Birds Unlimited of Kingwood placed a large bird feeder in the middle of the villagers’ backyard and the idea of a 20-house birdhouse therapy wall was hatched,” Edwards said.
Edwards understands the importance of optimism and hope. He was diagnosed with bronchiolitis obliterans syndrome, a lung disease that took 60 percent of his lung capacity and required lots of weekly medical appointments.
“We lived in Bellaire so I could easily get to the Texas Medical Center,” he said. “Over time, I developed a better medical routine and learned how to maintain my lung disease, so we moved to Kingwood.”
Edwards was already deeply ingrained in his Bellaire Scout troop, so he chose to stay with them and travel into Houston from Kingwood each week.
“Though we travel to Bellaire for Scouts, we have truly inserted ourselves in the Kingwood community and are very happy to be here,” he said.
Scouting – and woodworking – have always interested Edwards. As a Cub Scout with Pack 130 and Boy Scout with Troop 222 in Bellaire, he honed his woodworking skills on the sander, band saw, circular saw and table saw, learning about how to build a wooden derby car, creating aerodynamic cuts to craft a faster car for Bellaire’s annual Pinewood Derby.
By middle school, Edwards had polished his skills working with woodworking machines so that he could look at photos of birdhouses and make templates of them.
Some of the material Edwards uses he already had on hand. He had to purchase screws, nails, hooks and polyethylene, and Kingwood merchants Pet Ranch, Wild Birds Unlimited of Kingwood, Lowes Atascocita and Alspaugh’s Hardware donated most of the wood that he used.
In addition to the generous Kingwood businesses, Edwards’ Scout troop in Bellaire is constructing 20 large bird houses. A family friend, Kristi Hebert, had her third-grade class at Woodland Hills Elementary paint and construct an additional 40 bird houses.
“I reached out to our YMSL and NCL-Livable Forest organizations and, because of their involvement and help with installation, Stoney Glenn will have more than 100 bird houses,” Edwards said.
Edwards’ project has been a family bonding affair, too. His dad helped oversee safety use as Edwards cut the templates and pre-drilled for the younger Scouts. His sister and mom are painting and keeping track of which bird houses need platforms and polyethylene coats before installation.
Besides honing his woodworking skills, Edwards has sharpened the skills he will need as he transitions from Quest Early College High School to college.
“I graduate in 2022. I have a few ideas of what I want to do with my future, but I don’t have a clear idea yet,” he said. “I looked into programs at the University of Houston and Sam Houston University. In 10 years, I see myself working as a computer coder or computer engineer.”
His bird house project consumes much of Edwards’ time, but he does find time occasionally to make music, work on coding – and comic books.
“Our family has a shared comic passion for as long as I can remember,” he said. “Dad and I read comic books together. Mom makes costumes for us for Marvel movie openings. I collect comic books, action figures and collectible posters. We’re the family that would dress up in theme for Comicpalooza.”
Edwards’ health condition is not obvious to anyone around him. His family would not let him use his medical condition as a crutch, but as an opportunity to recognize his health and be aware of his needs.
“My unknown health condition has really opened my eyes to understanding that all people have challenges in their lives, whether we see it or not, so it is very important to be empathetic to others,” he said.
Whatever he chooses to do, his Eagle project, creating the bird house garden therapy wall for the Village’s Stoney Glenn residents, has given Edwards the tools he needs to become a successful, productive adult.
“I have learned that planning and time management play a large part in orchestrating such a big project,” Edwards said. “There are several steps required for approval and permission to begin a project.”
Edwards’ most challenging yet fun task was managing younger Scout volunteers to stay on task, make safe choices and complete one task at a time.
“I feel the lesson that impacted me the most was how helpful and important service is to the community,” Edwards said. “It was such a surreal feeling to simply reach out to my Bellaire Scout troop, the Young Men’s Service League, the National Charity League, my alumni elementary school, the Kingwood merchants and the Village Learning Center.”
He has been overwhelmed by “…the amazing community participation response,” he said. “We all came together to accomplish one specific goal – the Village Learning Center’s birdhouse therapy wall project.”
And what is most rewarding about his Scout project?
“That part is still to come,” Edwards said. “Once I finish and get to see the villagers’ reaction to the project. That is what I am truly looking forward to.”