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Student tackles homeless subject with play

Joe Rice, an honor student at Bremerton High School, is helping promote a play to achieve his Eagle Scout project. - Photo by Christopher Mulally
Joe Rice, an honor student at Bremerton High School, is helping promote a play to achieve his Eagle Scout project.
— image credit: Photo by Christopher Mulally

e assumed it was just a cool project, but it turned into something he could have never imagined.

When Joe Rice — a senior honor school student at Bremerton High School — starting working on his Eagle Scout project about the homeless this fall, he soon discovered it was one of the hottest topics in town.

Rice is in charge of promoting the free play “One Paycheck Away,” which will be held at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 22 at St. Luke’s Methodist Church.

He showed up at a community meeting on Oct. 20 at Summit Avenue Presbyterian Church about Catholic Community Services’ plans to create a homeless shelter at Cambrian Avenue and Rodgers Street near the Bremerton Gateway.

Both Rice, as well as the director of the project, Sister Pat Millen, did not know how much heat the idea had drawn until the meeting.

Rice stayed around just to observe what all the talk was about.

Residents said it would decrease their property values, increase crime and put their children at risk.

They have also attended numerous city council meetings to plead against the project, some shedding tears.

Rice, 17, called Sister Pat Millen at Catholic Community Services a couple months before the meeting because he thought the issue of hopelessness would be an interesting one for his final scouts project. He hopes the play will raise awareness of hopelessness in Kitsap County, and the need for a permanent men’s shelter.

Currently, there is not a single shelter.

He gets his Eagle Scout badge for doing the project entirely on a volunteer basis. The rule is the work must benefit the community and the he must demonstrate leadership while doing it.

“When the play actually goes on I hope it will have an affect on people,” he said. “This shelter is a huge controversy but it will only house 25 people. And those are the ones who are most likely to succeed. There’s still so much to be done,” he said.

Rice has been in scouts since he was 9. Now in his last year of high school, his participation in the weekly meetings has tapered off, but he is spending a lot more of his time zipping out applications to colleges around the county.

Sister Pat Millen gave him the idea of promoting and setting up the play just to give him a challenge.

“He’s got a high energy level,” she said. “He learned he could get it done. He learned you can do it when you put your mind to it. My guess is when we get to Nov. 22, it is going to be a sell-out crowd.”

Rice is a normal senior on many counts. Some of his time he spends thinking about where he wants to go to school.

By September of next year, Rice plans to attend school with an emphasis on social sciences and music.

Currently, he plays saxophone in the jazz band at Bremerton High School, and also jams in a small combo with a couple friends.

“I like improvisation and a smaller setting,” Rice said.

At 6-foot-4, Rice stands a little above most of his classmates, but he still spends a few hours each week helping them out where he can.

He tutors English, Spanish and history.

Rice doesn’t know if teaching is the profession of his choice yet.

“I want college to help me figure that out,” he said. “I would like to dabble in different things and figure out what I want.”

Occasionally, while Rice was being interviewed at his parents’ house a few blocks from the high school, one of his sisters would swing though the living room.

His mom Terri stopped in to say that Rice has learned a lot about leadership while completing the project.

“A good part of the project is learning how to delegate,” she said.

Adds Rice, “There are a lot of people that are helping me. I find a lot of people who are really helpful, and a lot of people you wouldn’t realize are out there.”

Rice has worked with his father Steve on creating the advertisements and press releases. The duo came into the Patriot office last week to hand off a typed flier describing the project. Steve would occasionally fill in with details after Joe was done speaking.

Rice has employed his sister to hand pass the word at her Girl Scout troop # 210. Mom Terri is the troop leader.

Currently, Sister Pat Millen is sticking to her guns about the location of the shelter.

“I really believe this is the best site for us but we are considering alternatives,” she said.

She has a list of 10 men who are eligible for the new shelter already, she said. They are also tying up loose ends on their special use permit and resubmitting it to the city planning department.

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