Mark Kruger of Rice collected unwanted items to change the lives of others
By Tina Snell, Staff Writer
Rice Boy Scout, Mark Kruger, 18, became an Eagle Scout June 29. He not only earned the required 21 badges, but also planned and executed a service project where he led others in benefiting a community organization.
Kruger, a member of Rice Boy Scout Troop 473, chose to help Message Program, a St. Cloud organization that takes goods other companies don’t want and makes sure they get into the right hands. Those hands just happen to belong to the Guatemalan people.
“I have been working with Message Program for about 10 years,” said Kruger. “We send clothing, school supplies, toys, medical items such as wheelchairs, canes, beds and once, even a dialysis machine, fire gear, furniture and toys. Just about any non-perishable item we receive and repair if necessary, goes.”
Not only did Kruger collect, repair, pack and send eight 40-foot railroad containers to Guatemala, he followed them to Central America and ensured they were unpacked, stored and distributed.
“These items were all going to be tossed out if they weren’t donated,” he said. “We received items from around the state. If a business is replacing its lobby chairs, we ask if we can have the old ones. If a hotel is replacing beds, we ask for the old ones.”
The Message Program assisted Kruger with his project. He used its warehouse in St. Cloud to store and repair the items he collected. He also coordinated about 50 volunteers to sort and pack the donated goods.
“We had about 1,200 man-hours into the project,” he said.
Some of the items were broken down to pack them more efficiently. Every available space was used in each of the containers, with intravenous poles and bags of clothing slid under pallets.
Besides coordinating the St. Cloud end of the project, Kruger also had to raise funds to be able to feed the volunteers and get the airfare to Central America, along with food and incidentals when he arrived.
From the time Kruger started in December 2011, to when the eight containers were shipped, nine months had elapsed. They were sent by rail to the coast, then by ship to Guatemala.
In November 2012, Kruger followed the containers and he stayed in Guatemala for two weeks.
“I was looking forward to see how the humanitarian aid impacted the Guatemalan people,” he said.
Kruger found a world different from what he’s used to. While he speaks Spanish, he’d never been immersed in a non-English-speaking area. He said he had a headache for several days.
While the containers were filled by forklifts and other machinery in St. Cloud, they were emptied by hand and then carried to where everything were warehoused in Guatemala City.
“The people who helped had to carry everything the distance of about 1.5 football fields,” said Kruger. “And since the elevator had no car to carry items to the upper floors, a pulley was installed in the shaft to pull the bags of goods up.”
Some of the items Kruger sent were distributed from where they were stored and some, especially the medical items, were brought directly to clinics.
“The clinics in the area are being built, but without the funds to furnish them with beds or other much-needed equipment,” said Kruger.
Kruger worked in Guatemala City for about nine days, then spent two days in Antigua, Guatemala, to relax. He spent another day touring a fire department and a coffee plantation.
Kruger said his project is helping so many people, from the children who have trouble walking to poorer communities that are receiving hygiene products and medical supplies to improve their lifestyles.
“Knowing that trash here can transform someone’s life there is hard to see,” he said. “It’s devastating, knowing what we take for granted.”
Kruger plans to continue volunteering with the Message Program while he attends St. Cloud Technical School to become a diesel mechanic.