© The Stoneham Independent

STONEHAM, MA – Stoneham High School junior Christopher Burns has much to celebrate.

Just days after achieving the notable Boy Scouts of America rank of Eagle Scout, the local teenager was feted in Town Hall on Tuesday night after being named as the Stoneham Historical Commission’s 27th Annual Heritage Award Recipient. 

Addressing the Select Board in Town Hall, Historical Commission Co-Chair Marcia Wengen explained that Burns, the youngest-ever recipient of the local award, deserved the honor for planning and personally installing the new handicapped-accessible ramp into the Historical Society headquarters and museum off of William Street.

Burns, later given the opportunity to address the Select Board, was quick to give credit to others who lent a big hand in helping him to complete his ramp project on William Street last winter.

“I’d like to give my thanks to the Stoneham Historical Society for their support,” said the local resident.

According to Wengen, Historical Society member Donna Weiss, who was overwhelmed by Burns dedication to the winter construction work, nominated the SHS pupil for the award after the teenager pitched the installation of the ramp – free of cost – as his Eagle Scout service project.

Weiss also mentioned the high school pupil’s involvement with the SHS history team.  

Besides designing the ramp and conducting the necessary demolition work to build it, the Stoneham honor student also raised all necessary funding for the capital project.  In total, the materials and services associated with the ramp construction carried a price-tag of roughly $5,300.

In addition to those financial obstacles to the Eagle Scout’s ambitious plan, Burns, facing challenges that often require technical assistance from professional architects and engineers, also had to be sure the work was fully compliant with both the state building code and the federal American with Disabilities Act.

“This ramp was a much-discussed item, but because of its prohibitive cost, it was always put on the backburner,” said Wengen, reading from the letter sent to the Historical Commission from Weiss.

“This construction occurred on a very cold November weekend and continued for weeks afterwards.  Because of this impressive young man, the [Historical Society] museum can now allow access to the building for all individuals,” continued the nomination letter.

First established in 1992, the annual Heritage Award is bestowed upon a worthy person or group that works to preserve or enhance Stoneham’s ties to its past.  It is always awarded every May, which is known as national history preservation month.

The idea of presenting the honor was first pitched by local history buff Stephen Rotondi, who was himself the recipient of the award in 2016.  As this year’s honoree, Burns will have his name added to a plaque memorializing past recipients.

“It is given to an individual, business, or organization that in our opinion has made an exceptional contribution to the preservation and awareness of Stoneham’s historical legacy,” said Wengen of the award criteria.

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