Teen’s Eagle Scout project benefits LIFT-UP of Routt County | SteamboatToday.com

Teen’s Eagle Scout project benefits LIFT-UP of Routt County

17-year-old builds display case for thift store

Jack Weinstein

Landen Mertz spent 160 hours building a new display case for the LIFT-UP of Routt County thrift store. Mertz worked on it as part of his Eagle Scout project.

— A few pieces of jewelry sold shortly after they were displayed behind the locked glass doors of a new case at the LIFT-UP of Routt County thrift store. It was a great start for the new home to some of the thrift store's nicest items.

Landen Mertz, 17, built the wood and glass display case as his Eagle Scout project and donated it Nov. 16 to LIFT-UP.

Its early success pleased De­­borah Improta, who manages the thrift store. She said the thrift store plans to treat the display case as its "showcase unit," a place for jewelry, antiques and other more expensive items.

"It's not something LIFT-UP would have ever thought about buying. Everything in the store is donated," Improta said about everything from the clothing it sells to the display racks it uses. "It gives us something high-end in the store to display merchandise in."

Mertz, a home-schooled student completing his senior year, said he took on the project after hearing from a friend's mom who volunteers for LIFT-UP that the thrift store had dealt with thefts. Improta said LIFT-UP officials hope the locking case will prevent future crime.

With the help of his grandfather, Mertz started working on the project in September. They had some help.

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A number of companies donated materials at a reduced cost or for free, such as Frank Paxton Lumber Co., of Denver, and Johnson Glass and Ace at the Curve, both of Steamboat. He said Chris Haight, owner of Steamboat's Kit­­chen Perfection, designed the case. And he said Jim Bur­­row, manager of the local Wagner Equip­­ment Rentals, donated the use of a nail gun.

In all, Mertz said it cost about $2,800 to build the case. He has applied for a $500 grant from the Rotary Club of Steamboat Springs to help pay for some of the expenses.

John Koler, who owns Johnson Glass with his wife, Sherry, provided nearly $400 in glass for free. Koler said he didn't know Mertz or his father, John, before they walked into his store one day in fall. But Koler said he was impressed with Mertz.

"He sounded like a really good kid," Koler said. "I appreciated what he was doing for LIFT-UP. It's a really good cause. I thought we could help him out by donating the glass."

Mertz said he spent about 160 hours on the case, which stretches 10 feet long, is 42 inches tall and 19 inches deep. It's separated into three sections, with sliding glass doors that lock for each. Inside, two glass shelves are lit.

While building the display case for his Eagle Scout project, which requires that scouts assist a religious or nonprofit entity, Mertz said there were a few challenges, but it was a fun project. He's pleased with the final product.

"I think it's awesome," he said. "We spent a lot of time on it, and I think the results are amazing. I didn't think it would turn out this nice, to be honest."

Last week, a picture frame wedding photo album, a vintage scale and a few other items were stashed away safely, locked in the display case.

"This is just a small amount of what we're looking to put in there, which is pretty cool," Im­­prota said.

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