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Staff Photo by Grant Morris

Eighteen year old Eagle Scout, Kevin Grosso, a senior at Merrimack High School, stands for a portrait outside of the Salvation Army's Montgomery Ave location Thursday afternoon. Grosso collected over 15,500 diapers for the Salvation Army as part of his Eagle Project.
Saturday, July 3, 2010

Merrimack Scout collects 15,500 diapers for Eagle project

MERRIMACK – Last winter, the Salvation Army of Nashua was particularly short on one of its greatest needs: diapers.

Always in short supply because they’re expensive, diapers are also one of the most needed items for families, said Rosemarie Dykeman, a social worker at the organization.

“I don’t think I had four packages” on the shelves, Dykeman said.

Then, Kevin Grosso walked through the door.

The 18-year-old Merrimack teen and six-year member of Boy Scout Troop 424 offered to complete his Eagle Scout project through the Salvation Army.

“He asked about our greatest need, something that would be a huge challenge,” Dykeman said.

She knew a diaper drive would be just the thing. Grosso delivered: in four months, he collected 15,500 diapers – which could cover the organization’s needs for as much as an entire year.

“I was stunned,” Dykeman said.

Grosso was setting out to achieve his Eagle Scout designation, the highest rank within the Boy Scouts of America. Among other things, it requires the Scout to earn at least 21 merit badges and complete an extensive community service project.

Grosso landed in Nashua after initial plans to build a bridge over a swampy area near Merrimack Middle School, or do a project for his church, fell through.

Also, Grosso said he wanted to do a project that was more necessity than luxury.

“I wanted to do something that would really impact and really help people in need,” he said.

He remembered seeing Salvation Army bell ringers during the holidays and collection bins in local stores.

At first, Grosso pictured collecting clothes or food for the organization, but accepted Dykeman’s suggestion to collect diapers. A standard package of 10 disposable diapers costs about $7. Grosso set a goal to collect 10,000 diapers.

With some help from fellow Scouts, Grosso started in February by gathering 15 large cardboard boxes from a warehouse, painting them light blue and pink and posting signs about the project on them. He then placed them at local grocery stores, the YMCA, and libraries in Merrimack, Nashua, Hudson, Amherst and Manchester.

He also held car washes and sought donations to buy in bulk from area hospitals.

His biggest haul came from sending a flier home with every kindergarten- through sixth- grade student in the Merrimack School District, which he said was allowed by Superintendent Marge Chiafery.

Through that effort, he collected 3,000 diapers.

By early June, Grosso had collected more than 15,000 diapers of all different sizes, which took up one whole bay of his parents’ garage.

“People would laugh and make fun of me, usually referring to me as being the one to use the lifetime supply,” Grosso said.

Finally, early in June, he loaded up his dad’s truck and a friend’s SUV to deliver them to the Salvation Army.

“All I kept saying was, ‘Oh, my gosh. This is amazing. Oh, my gosh,’” Dykeman recalled. “He just had a huge smile on his face.”

Grosso’s donation should last six months to a year, Dykeman said.

Along with the 302 diaper packages – at an estimated value of at least $2,000 – he collected 1,941 wipes and 100 baby bottle liners.

Grosso said the project taught him about being specific and the importance of organization.

Earning Eagle Scout is also significant to him because his father and older brother earned the rank, which is widely recognized by colleges, future employers and the military.

“It shows that you can make a plan and stick to it and show responsibility and leadership,” Grosso said.

Grosso, who will enter his senior year at Merrimack High School this fall, said he’s interested in a career in business.

“It was a huge amount of work,” Dykeman said. “He’s done an amazing thing for us.”