Michael Sander, a member of Boy Scout Troop 20, is one step closer to achieving his goal of achieving Eagle Scout award.

For his service project, he recently completed the beautification of the Memorial Garden at First United Church of Christ of Palmerton, located at 457 Delaware Ave. The project was a special one for him because he is a member of the church and wanted to help improve the looks of the area.

After ripping out all the overgrown bushes and large pine trees, he graded the area, added stones and mulch.

The congregation was asked to help him with the costs with monetary donations or by sponsoring plants. Two new young trees were also added to the grounds.

Anywhere from one to 10 people helped Michael in the project, which took a total of 115 hours.

"This project meant a lot to me because it is my church and it was a way to give back to it because it couldn't really afford to have it done otherwise. It has helped me with management skills and gave me a sense of accomplishment," says Michael.

The Rev. Richard McClain, pastor of First UCC, lauded Michael for his effort.

"It made quite an improvement. I think what Michael did is a positive statement on what our youth are doing today," he says.

Michael says becoming an Eagle Scout has been a long road.

"It has been a lot of work and in the beginning it's like you can't see the light at the end of the tunnel. But, I'm proud I did it," he says.

Michael is the son of Mike Sander and Susan Bankes. He is a senior at Palmerton Area High School and is hoping to gain entrance to the Coast Guard Academy where he plans to major in environmental engineering.

He enjoys outdoor sports and plays on his school's football and baseball teams.