Seventeen-year-old Keenan Martin lead a neighborhood cleanup of a small grassy area at the intersection of Avondale and Lawrence in Jefferson Park. Credit: Provided

JEFFERSON PARK — A Jefferson Park teenager on his way to becoming an Eagle Scout led a neighborhood improvement effort to spruce up a dilapidated corner in the Far Northwest Side.

Keenan Martin cleaned up the corner of Avondale and Lawrence avenues as part of a project to help his community and involve neighbors — one of the last tasks he needed to finish to become an Eagle Scout, the highest tier in the Boy Scouts of America program.

The area had patchy grass, chipped paint on a nearby wall and a welcome sign from an old neighborhood association. Martin, who’s been a boy scout for years, thought he could make it look better with help and hard work. 

With friends from Martin’s Eagle Scout troop, he removed the sign, sanded and refinished it and replaced its legs. The group also repainted the nearby viaduct wall, pulled weeds and sprayed weed killer. A local landscaping company, Williams Landscaping, drew up plans for the space and provided plants, flagstone, fresh dirt and mulch.

“I had the idea of doing a garden on this section of land that was kind of run over by weeds, and it looked really ugly,” Martin said. “I wanted to redo that and make it look pretty again, so the idea was to dig [the grass] up and put plants in it.”

The corner before Keenan Martin began the cleanup.

Craig Williams, the president and owner of Williams Landscaping, said Martin’s project piqued his interest, and he decided to help the teen in part because his own son is an Eagle Scout.

“I think to be an Eagle Scout, you have to show a little maturity and a little leadership and organization, and that’s really what I saw from Keenan,” Williams said. “He did everything that he said he was going to do, and it’s actually very impressive.”

Williams said he received about $2,000 in plants from Lurvey Home and Garden, a plant nursery from suburban Des Plaines that’s helped with previous Eagle Scout projects.

Martin has committed to the area’s upkeep since finishing the project, regularly watering the plants with water from a nearby apartment building, he said.

His mother, Ami Martin, said community members left positive comments about the upgrades in local Facebook groups.

“I think it’s just such a busy corner that it’s gotten a lot more attention than I thought he ever expected,” Ami Martin said. “Whenever he was out there watering, anyone who drove by [would] say thank you or make some comments about how great it looks.”

A Jefferson Park teen lead a clean up effort in his goal to become an Eagle Scout, the highest rank a Boy Scouts of America youth can reach. Credit: Provided

Ami Martin said the wife of a man who made the community sign years ago also appreciated the teen’s efforts.

“She works at a local church here, and someone at the church is connected to us and told us the story that she came to work in tears because she was so excited that the garden had been planted and her husband’s sign was back up and refinished,” Ami Martin said.

The work done, Keenan Martin is in the final stages of reaching Eagle Scout rank.

“In the end, I’m really happy with the way it turned out because every day I would take a train and walk past there and it’d be not a pleasant sight to look … and I just kind of wanted to renovate that,” Martin said. “And I think I achieved more than what I was thinking I could do. And it just feels nice.”

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