MUNDELEIN, Ill. — It was meant to be an Eagle Scout project with a lesson in community service, but now as one teen heads off to college, he leaves behind a club that is dedicated to serving those who serve our country.
Four years ago at the age of 14, Eagle Scout Matthew Pawlowski set out on a mission to send care packages to U.S. Military deployed overseas.
“That whole summer, I was going out to the community looking for people to donate,” Pawlowski said.
Pawlowski, who had no close relations with military personnel, says he just wanted to help people and picked the active military for his Eagle Scout project. The first summer alone he collected nearly 6,600 items shipping more than 100 boxes around the globe.
“Other products like soap, dove soap something that makes them feel like they are at home, candy and just like food,” Pawlowski said.
But Pawlowski’s good deeds were not short lived. His freshman year at Mundelein High School he founded the Helping Heroes of America Club and continued to work the community for donations to send care packages.
U.S. Marine veteran Jay Hightower met Pawlowski at a school Veterans Day event. He said Pawlowski peppered him with questions about the military.
“And he was full of questions about the service about my background my career a little bit of everything,” Hightower said.
The two formed a kinship and Hightower said he was so impressed with the teens work he wrote a letter to the village of Mundelein encouraging recognition.
“All of his accomplishments and his selfless good deeds that he has done throughout his youth and his teen years all the way to right now, and i know he is going to leave here feeling very significant and very appreciated,” Hightower said.
Last month the village recognized Pawkowski for his community service. And just last week, he was the recipient of the VFW’s 2020 Scout of the Year award. All at the request of his military friend and advocate Hightower.
“I just hadn’t seen any kid just doing so much for community and so many selfless kindness deeds, it resonated with me,” Hightower said.
“It’s just an award that I’m happy to get but I want to help as many people out and inspire other people to do what I’ve done,” Pawkowski said.
But Pawlowski’s patriotism and support for military can also be spotted right here at home. Last Veterans Day he showed his support by decorating Mundelein High School grounds with 200 flags. Now as he heads off to college, he says he wants other teens to get involved.
“I want to spread the word that everyone could be doing what I did, it doesn’t matter what group you pick,” Pawlowski said.
And although next year, the high school club will have to carry on without Pawlowski, the work they do is sure to please active military and veterans alike.
Matthew Pawlowski is one of Chicago’s Very Own.
For more information on Helping Heroes of America, visit helpingheroesofamerica.org.