The Pressly Family Heritage Garden on the Erskine campus was the setting this fall for an Eagle Scout project that has already benefited Erskine students. The latest gift to the Heritage Garden, located behind the science center on the Erskine campus, comes from Sam Elsner, son of Professor of Psychology Dr. Robert Elsner and Betsy Elsner, instructor and librarian at Erskine’s McCain Library.
A senior at Dixie High School in Due West, Sam is a member of Troop 54, which is chartered by the Due West ARP Church. His father is Scoutmaster, and serving as Assistant Scoutmasters are John Paul Marr, Jamie Crisp, William Mann, and Chris Redding.
Professor Emerita of Biology Dr. Jan Haldeman “recommended that I do a project in the garden, so that it could help out the community and college, especially the children in the summer program,” Sam said, referring to “Discovery Garden,” a program centered around activities in the Pressly Garden and offered at Erskine for the fifth consecutive year in 2013.
As he considered Haldeman’s recommendation, Sam said, he knew that he “really wanted to make the garden more accessible as well, both to our older citizens and people in wheelchairs who could not reach these beautiful plants before.”
So he proposed building raised beds in the garden. “He came to me with the idea, and I agreed that it was a good one!” Haldeman said.
Haldeman and her field botany students enjoyed reaping some of the rewards of Sam’s gift during the fall semester, using the beds he and several helpers constructed.
“Completion of the raised beds was in time for my class to plant herbs and provide labels for them,” she said. “Some of the ones planted were used to produce medicinal soaps.”
Troop 54 has assisted in the maintenance of the Pressly Family Heritage Garden by removing such invasive species as English ivy, so Sam was in familiar territory as he worked on his Eagle project.
“Other than getting my Eagle finished, the best part was learning about logistics and planning,” he said. “I had to learn a lot about managing a volunteer group of helpers, and to be willing to ask for donations as well as help.”
Sam and his fellow Scouts received a few botany lessons along the way. “Dr. Haldeman taught us about all kinds of cool plants in the garden that can really help us on camping trips,” he said.
In completing his Eagle project, Sam said, “I learned that if I plan in advance, I can do almost anything, especially since I won’t be doing it alone.”
Two South Carolina National Heritage Corridor Matching Grants as well as two grants from the Josephine Stevenson Charitable Trust, along with donations from alumni, friends and local organizations, provided funds to establish the Pressly Family Heritage Garden at Erskine College, which has been designated a Certified Wildlife Habitat.