Dublin Villager

Eagle Scout's efforts garner additional honor

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Eagle Scout Mitch Zelle's work with Gracehaven earned him his Eagle Scout status last year and more recently the Melinda W. Adams National Eagle Scout Service Project of the Year award. Zelle's Eagle project including repairing the wood fence at Gracehaven.

Mitch Zelle's work with Gracehaven earned him Eagle Scout status last year and more recently the Melinda W. Adams National Eagle Scout Service Project of the Year award.

The award, given to the Coffman High School sophomore last month, came from the National Eagle Scout Association and recognized work he did with a Columbus-based nonprofit that provides rehabilitation for victims of sex trafficking in the U.S.

Zelle said the idea to help Gracehaven for his Eagle Scout project came to Zelle at church.

"I saw another church doing work in Cambodia," he said, noting the country has a booming tourism trade in the crime.

"At first I wanted to do my Eagle project there, but it's halfway across the world."

When Zelle saw a video at church on the work Gracehaven is doing locally, he was hooked.

"I saw (sex trafficking) was here and you really don't see it," he said.

"It's a really terrible loop you can get into."

The nonprofit ended up having Zelle repair a nine-acre fence that surrounds a rehabilitation home outside the Columbus area.

Much of the fence was damaged by a storm, resulting in the need for 180 pieces of 8-foot lumber, 25 pounds of nails and 25 gallons of paint.

"It doesn't feel like work," Zelle said of the project.

About 400 hours of volunteer work went into the project and drew helpers from churches and even a group from Nationwide Insurance, Zelle said.

"I got to lead people my age, in college and adults," he said.

"It was a huge leadership thing for me."

Even after the long-time Troop 200 member was named an Eagle Scout and the fence was finished, he remained involved with Gracehaven.

Zelle made a video outlining his project and urged people to donate to the group.

He's also participated in their fundraiser, Walk a Mile in Her Shoes.

"It wasn't a hard job because you know you're doing it for something good," he said.

"I'm still working with them."

Both volunteering and the Boy Scouts have long been a part of Zelle's life.

Older siblings got Zelle volunteering for the Salvation Army at a young age.

"I don't think he's ever missed helping their Christmas Cheer program," said his mother, Jill Zelle.

Earning Eagle Scout status has long been a goal for Zelle, who hoped to follow in the footsteps of his father, uncle and older brother.

A love of the outdoors also kept him with the scouts.

"There are a lot of great guys and a lot of great opportunities," he said.

"Overall you get exposed to things people don't usually get exposed to."

But most of all, Zelle is happy his Eagle Scout project helped him get involved with Gracehaven.

"Gracehaven is a really, really great organization," he said.