Little library built for former gang members earns scout Eagle honors

Little library built for former gang members earns scout Eagle honors
Father Greg Boyle and Eagle Scout Dylan Langer stand next to Langer’s Little Free Library, which he built for Homeboy Industries, a Los Angeles social enterprise to help former gang members. Photo courtesy Brian Langer

Special to The Coast News

REGION — Sixteen-year-old Carlsbad resident, Dylan Langer, readily admits he was in culture shock when he and his dad stepped off the Amtrak at L.A.’s Union Station, and took a short walk through a gritty neighborhood. Langer was there to pitch an idea to tattooed former gang members, some just out of prison, at the nearby Homeboy Industries.

Langer, a junior at Carmel Valley’s Cathedral Catholic High School, was looking for an organization to serve for his Boy Scout Eagle project.

Normally Eagle Scout candidates may rehabilitate a trail, build park benches, or create a community garden. But he chose inner city Homeboy Industries instead.

“I thought maybe I could help them love to read books like I do,” said Langer.

Homeboy Industries produces numerous food products, sold commercially throughout Southern California.

The organization provides counseling, education, and job training through their social enterprises.

While previously visiting family in Wisconsin, Langer saw numerous little free libraries — little wooden huts where one may take a book, and leave a book. Homeboy’s founder, Father Greg Boyle, came to speak at his school.

“Father Greg teaches formerly warring gang members to work together in the kitchens,” Langer said. “They also provide laser removal of tattoos.”

Langer returned a few months later to place his hand-built library at the education center at Homeboy Industries, to an appreciative group. But he had an additional library that he built with some surplus funds and materials.

On Sept. 12, his grandfather passed away in Scripps Memorial Hospital in Encinitas. To honor his grandfather, Langer set up a meeting with Scripps Encinitas’ Chief Executive Carl Etter, to pitch his idea of a free library hut.

“I was a little nervous when I walked into his office, but then I saw Mr. Etter’s Eagle Scout award on the wall,” said Langer.

“The hospital had free books in the lobby, but never had a place for them,” said Langer.

On Nov. 11, Langer placed his free library hut in the Zen Garden of the hospital. Five days before, in front of his family and his fellow scouts in Troop 2000 in Olivenhain, Langer was awarded Boy Scout’s highest rank of Eagle Scout at his Court of Honor.

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