Nature exploration


Chris Menna called the 2100 block of South 18th Street home for 35 years, and while he currently resides with his wife and two children Emilia, 3, and Christopher John Jr., 18 months, in Roxborough, the community continues to draw him back. At age 8, Menna was introduced to Boy Scouts and at 18, he made the highest honor of Eagle Scout.

“I enjoy giving back to it because of all the things it gave me. It turned me into a responsible young man, and it gave me a lot of outdoor opportunities,” the 40-year-old said.

Menna, the scout leader for Troop 147, the same group he joined as a child, has been focusing on giving the boys — ages 11 to 18 — an outdoor experience that isn’t easy to achieve in the city for more than 20 years. Through trips to eastern Pennsylvania, scouts learn about nature and survival skills. Under his leadership, the boys are exposed to community service, such as cleaning up FDR Park, Broad Street and Pattison Avenue, and donating meals to Epiphany of Our Lord, 11th and Jackson streets, as well as achieving confidence levels.

Menna’s biggest project with his young charges is its food drive for which the outfit has collected up to 5,000 cans within two weekends for the last 15 years by canvassing and receiving donations from South Philly neighborhoods.

“They have opportunities to build their communication, thinking and leadership skills outside of schools,” the alum of Stephen Girard School, 1800 Snyder Ave., and Girard Academic Music Program, 2136 Ritner St., said.

By day, he is the City of Philadelphia’s Streets Department chief assistant bridge engineer and as an Philadelphia Community College adjunct professor, Menna teaches a course to help City employees earn a certification through a series of construction management classes. The 2003 Engineers’ Club of Philadelphia Young Engineer of the Year also does consulting for businesses and homeowners to help to improve their properties — saving some from being demolished.

“There’s a tough spirit that these people have and that’s part of who I am,” he said.

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