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story.lead_photo.caption At right, Malachi Saint, 15, and his mother, Deeann, place items into backpacks to be given to local foster children at the Central Missouri Foster Care and Adoption Association. Malachi, who went through the foster care system, is using his Eagle Scout project to improve the lives of other foster children. Photo by Gerry Tritz / Fulton Sun.

When Malachi Saint entered the foster care system at the age of 2, he had nothing more than a girl's coat and a single grocery bag containing all of his worldly possessions.

Now 15, Malachi is using his Eagle Scout project to make sure that other kids in foster care have it better than he did.

He's attempting to raise $10,000 to fill 100 backpacks each with $100 worth of blankets, bibs, clothing, shoes, hygiene products and other items.

"I've always wanted to help people in my life," he said. "People deserve better than what I had."

The Central Missouri Foster Care and Adoption Association gives the "Begin Again" backpacks to children entering the foster care system. They are composed of different items, depending on the age of the child.

Malachi is doing the project with encouragement and support from his adopted parents, Joe and Deeann Saint. They took in Malachi and his sister, Maya, who is two years younger than him, in 2004. The Saints officially adopted them in 2009.

"He makes me really proud of him," Deann Saint said. "He's super compassionate with a big heart. I'm excited to see what the rest of his life has in store for him."

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For the past decade, Malachi has been involved in Scouting at Troop 1 at First United Methodist, where he has earned some two dozen merit badges. Now he's working on the Eagle Award, the top award in Scouting that one that only about 2 percent of Scouts achieve.

Many Eagle projects involve building, so Scout leaders were initially hesitant to approve his project. But he proved to them that he had the desire and capability to achieve it.

This summer, he has been busy hitting up local businesses for donations of both money and products.

He's sent letters, followed up with phone calls, collected donations and kept a journal of what he has done.

So far, he has topped $7,000 in donations toward his $10,000 goal. He hopes to meet his goal by next month, but says he won't stop there if he's able to top that amount.

He credits his project coach, Luke Steenbergen, with keeping him on target and helping him with the project as well as David, a school friend, who has inspired him to complete the project.

CMFCAA Executive Director Deanna Alonso said Malachi has grown up with her own adopted children. She said she's grateful for the project he's undertaking, and that Malachi is gaining leadership skills that will carry him through life.

Alonso started the "Begin Again" backpack program. But before Malachi took on the project, many of the products placed in the backpacks were nearly depleted.

"He felt like he's been blessed by a wonderful family and community and he just wanted to give back to kids who may have not had the things they needed to be successful when removed from their biological homes," Alonso said.

If you would like to donate to Malachi's project, contact the CMFCAA at 573-298-0258.

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