FREEPORT (AP) — Brothers Kurt and Seth Rodriguez Whalen, 15, are no strangers to humanitarian efforts or helping out their community.
For years the twins have gone on family trips to Peru to help bring medical supplies to needy residents. The brothers say helping others is in their blood.
Kurt and Seth are also involved with Boy Scout Troop 4 in Freeport and are working toward the rank of Eagle Scout.
Both are doing Eagle Scout projects at the Freeport Police Department, but that's just a coincidence.
Kurt created a MedReturn box, which is located in the Police Department lobby to allow residents to safely drop off unwanted prescription medications. Seth built a picnic area for department employees.
"We don't always do things together," Seth said. "But it just turned out this way. Each project helps out the community, which makes us both feel good."
Kurt said when it came time for his Eagle project, he wanted to do something to help the community and protect the environment. His project is called the Northwest Illinois Medication Disposal Program, which offers a safe way for people to dispose of unwanted, unused and expired medications. The program began in July after Kurt added a MedReturn box at the Freeport Police Department.
"Having medications around the home is a safety and health threat, and disposing (of) them in the trash can pollute the environment," Kurt said. "So I identified a company in Wisconsin that builds strong, lockable boxes that are approved by the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency), that people can use to get rid of their unwanted medications."
With the disposal box at the police department, it is under constant watch from would-be thieves. Kurt said by partnering with the police, the department will make sure the contents are properly disposed at a government-approved facility.
"I've had a lot of support from the Boy Scout community and my family," Kurt said. "But the money to help pay for the box came from money raised and through a $500 grant from the Freeport Community Foundation. The box cost $995."
Kurt also received money for the project from FHN.
Seth used his project to build a pergola picnic area outside the police department.
This stone area, complete with an arbor, was built in memory of Larry Becker, who used to volunteer with the department. Becker died in 2011. Money left in a memorial to the department from Becker helped pay for the picnic area, which will be dedicated to Becker on Sept. 11.
"I looked at project possibilities for my Eagle rank and found out the police department had money bestowed from Larry Becker and the department wanted a picnic area, so I got busy with the plans," Seth said. "All that is left to do is get the plaque up with Larry's name on it."
Deputy Police Chief Jim Drehoble said he is proud of the recent additions to the department.
"What these boys have done is great and really helps the community, and if Larry could see this picnic area, he would be so proud," Drehoble said. "We also want people to know our lobby is open 24 hours for the medication drop off, but for privacy reasons, they need to remove the label from the bottle first."