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Meet Nazareth's "Whiz Kid" Jeffrey Sroka

A Nazareth Area High School student uses his woodworking and landscaping skills to complete an Eagle Scout project.

With knowledge in both landscaping and woodworking, Jeffrey B. Sroka put his skills to the test for his Eagle Scout project -- he landscaped a 130-foot embankment between the parking lot at and the sidewalk below.

A junior at , Sroka is a member of the Boy Scouts' Venture Crew 1421, which is chartered through the parish.

Sroka said the project was pretty in-depth:

  • Three spillways, which guide water away from the parking lot and down to the roadway, had been damaged over the years.
  • Tree roots were showing through the surface of the ground, the majority of which was covered with leaves instead of grass.
  • The church's parking lot didn't have painted lines.

In all, the project included planning for 30 parking spots in the lot -- and 10 parking spots for the nearby -- landscaping a 130-foot embankment, removal of a dying tree and carving a 5-foot-high cross out of the tree's trunk.

“My first consideration was the water flow off the hill,” Sroka said. “That will wipe out the whole thing if you don’t do it right.”

Sroka lined the spillway channels with leftover bricks from a sidewalk project completed at the school.

He then used river rock in a variety of ways:

  • He put down new drainpipe, and at the top of the hill he capped the ground with river rock, which will allow excess water to soak into the ground. The rock will also protect the mulch and vegetation below from washing away, Sroka said.
  • He used two sizes of river rock for landscaping around the base of the trees. The smaller rocks were reclaimed material left over from a construction project at the school, Sroka said.

In addition to the rock, Sroka mulched a garden area and planted three types of flowering ground plants -- pachysandra, creeping myrtle and blue lily turf.

The pachysandra has a little white flower that blooms for most of the year, Sroka said. The myrtle is a purple flower and the lily turf produces a blue flower; right now it looks like long strands of grass poking out along rose quartz boulders.

“The rose quartz looks awesome,” he said.

Sroka said rose quartz is hard to find, but he was proud to have found five boulders at a local landscaping company. The boulders weighed a total of 4,000 pounds, with three of them weighing 1,000 pounds each.

The Rev. Joseph Tobias, pastor of Holy Family Church, said the rose quartz adds a beautiful color to the hillside. He looks forward to next summer when the pachysandra will fill the area with lots of color.

“It puts a whole new picture on it,” Tobias said.

In addition to the landscaping, Sroka also planned and painted the lines on the parking lot -- Tobias’ idea.

Sroka said he told the priest about his landscaping idea in 2010 during a Knights of Columbus Lenten fish fry at . Tobias gave Sroka permission to do the landscaping -- as long as he also lined the parking lot. Tobias was half joking. He secretly hoped Sroka would consider painting the parking lot, which was a much-needed project.

“The parking lot had no lines and was kind of chaotic," Sroka said. "Everyone [parks] in every direction."

After all of that, "the cross was an added bonus,” according to Brian Sroka, who added that he cut out a rough shape of a cross with his chainsaw -- his son chiseled it into the finished sculpture.

Tobias said several parishioners have praised Sroka's work.

“The cross adds so much to the parking lot,” Tobias said.

The entire project cost more than $2,000, Sroka said. He raised money by holding a car wash, selling hot dogs at two community events, and worked as a “Scout for Hire.”

He also received donations from several companies, including Landscaping Products in Bath, ORE Rentals in Nazareth, Hard Rock Landscaping in Phoenixville and Garden State Growers and GAR Equipment, both in New Jersey.

Sroka is currently building a guitar and restoring a Saroca boat. He has already restored a smaller sailboat called a Sailfish.

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