By his estimation, 15-year-old Somers Point resident Rich Heim III has helped out on at least 15 Eagle Scout projects during his five years as a member of Boy Scout Troop 55. Last month, he finally got to work on his own.

A bit of a local history buff, Heim used the occasion to help out the Somers Point Historical Society, repairing and painting the walls of its unfinished basement.

While he's a veteran painter, mortar repair is new to Rich, he said. Still, it wasn't too tough to pick up.

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"At first it was kind of hard, but you get the hang of it after a couple times," Rich said.

In qualifying for Eagle, Rich also had to earn 12 required badges such as first aid, camping and personal fitness and nine more badges of his choosing. On Aug. 6, he will submit his body of work to an Eagle Scout Board of Review, and if approved, will be granted the rank.

For the project, Rich and 22 other members of Troop 55 removed the old mortar joints, patched them and filled with the new mortar, after which they coated the walls of the 40-by-26-foot space in more than 20 buckets of paint. All told, the project took the scouts about three days.

Rich got the idea for the project from society President Sally Hastings, whose father and brother had previously led Troop 55 and who still remains in contact with the group. She said the redone basement is a drastic improvement over what it was previously.

"It definitely looks more finished," she said. "It also gave us the opportunity to clean everything up, and we have things in a storage area now - they also helped out, put shelving in and so forth. It's pretty cleaned up down there."

Rich, now a rising sophomore at Mainland Regional High School, started in scouts a decade ago. His father, Rich Heim Jr., joined scouting as his cubmaster, rising through the troop with him and serving the last few years as scoutmaster.

While many boys participate in scouting, only about 2 percent achieve the rank of Eagle. Despite the odds, the elder Heim said there was never a question about whether his son would stick with it.

"He was willing, the whole time," Heim said. "It really made it easy, because I didn't have to push him."

While Rich won't officially earn Eagle until he passes his Board of Review and is subsequently given the rank in a ceremony called the Court of Honor, he has achieved all the prerequisites and should qualify.

At just 15, Rich has a few years ahead of scouting left in which to be an example to others as well as simply enjoy being part of a rewarding program."

"I like being part of it, you get to do a lot of things that most people don't get to do," Rich said. "Hiking to different places, seeing cool sights, learning a lot about nature."

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