- Associated Press - Sunday, May 2, 2021

DOVER, Del. (AP) - The way Me’Lik S. Purnell sees it, everybody deserves the chance to snuggle up with a good book.

That’s why Me’Lik, a 16-year-old sophomore at Polytech High School who lives in Dover, decided to install three community libraries at various Dover parks for his Eagle Scout project for the Boy Scouts of America.

“I just felt like not everyone has an opportunity to go to the library and check out books to read,” Me’Lik said. “Plus, these books don’t have a due date and you can keep them as long as you want. Reading is an activity that is great for the mind, body and soul and I believe that everyone should have an opportunity to read.”

He guided a team of Scouts who installed library boxes at New Street Park, Saulsbury Road Park and Mayfair Park.

He said the project took some time to complete after being delayed by restrictions due to COVID-19, but he is proud of the work his team was able to complete and thanked Andrea Maucher of the Dover Elks Lodge for some help she provided.

“I led members of my troop in building the libraries,” Me’Lik said. “I didn’t do the physical work, except when I helped put the libraries in the ground, but I gave them instructions and was there to answer questions if they needed help. It was a medium amount of work, in the middle of long and short amounts of time.

“The reactions were great … only compliments from them. It’s even hard to keep them filled with books.”

Dover City Councilman Fred Neil (3rd District) saluted Me’Lik along with Robin Eaton, director of Parks and Recreation for the city of Dover.

“Young Mr. Purnell building small, easily accessible libraries in city parks for the public falls under the category of what makes Dover strong,” Councilman Neil said. “He didn’t just build libraries, he built imagination, education and entertainment centers that books bring to their readers.

“He created a gift to the public with his time, and talent, which if he continues, should indicate a future leader for our nation.”

Mr. Eaton agreed.

“Me’Lik’s Eagle Scout project is a great addition to the city of Dover park system,” he said. “The free little library’s that he built and installed in the three parks will provide easy access to books for years to come.”

Me’Lik is working toward becoming an Eagle Scout, the highest rank attainable in the Boy Scouts.

“His parents are very proud of their son’s dedication and accomplishments,” his mother Maretta Savage-Purnell said. “Me’Lik started this journey at age 5 when he joined Cub Scouts and then after receiving his Arrow of Lights he joined Troop 903 Boy Scouts in 2016. In addition to being a Boy Scout he is involved in other programs such as Embodi and Young Achievers. Me’Lik is an honor roll student and a member of Calvary Baptist Church.”

Since its inception in 1911, only 4% of Scouts have earned this rank after a lengthy review process. The Eagle Scout rank has been earned by more than 2.5 million youth.

Requirements in becoming an Eagle Scout include earning at least 21 merit badges.

The Eagle Scout must demonstrate Scout Spirit, an ideal attitude based upon the Scout Oath and Law, service, and leadership. This includes an extensive service project that the Scout plans, organizes, leads and manages – just like Me’Lik’s community library project.

If Me’Lik achieves Eagle Scout status, he will be presented with a medal and a badge that visibly recognizes his accomplishments.

He is hopeful that he will become an Eagle Scout before the end of the year and thanks the Boy Scouts for their camaraderie and the structure they have helped him attain.

“It’s changed the way that I look at the community and outdoors,” said Me’Lik, of the Scouts. “It’s opened me up to a whole bunch of new things that have bettered me at home. The biggest impact has to be the people that I met in Scouts. It’s good to have friends in everything you do.

“The most rewarding thing (about Scouts) hasn’t happened yet, but it will be getting my Eagle Scout.”

Me’Lik’s community library project certainly impressed Councilman Neil and many others who are appreciative of his efforts.

“I brought a stack of my paperback books to fill one or two of the mini-park libraries,” said Mr. Neil. “I think these books are more appropriate for his very proud dad than kids. These mysteries, adventures and thrillers have excited and engrossed me as I exercised on my stationary bike.

“The power of reading enlightens the world, and Me’lik’s libraries flipped on a switch for untold numbers of Dover citizens.”

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