Rotary Clubs keep Flags for Heroes program going during crisis

Flags are on display at Del Tech’s Owens Campus in Georgetown during Georgetown/Millsboro’s 2019 Flags For Heroes project. (File photo)

As the COVID-19 battle continues, flags in the First State will wave in salute to America’s military and others in the coming weeks through Rotary International’s Flags for Heroes program.

The coronavirus crisis has impacted efforts of several clubs with temporary postponements and adjusted schedules, but other clubs are pressing on.

“This is really great news. This year we’ve had greater response than we have ever had before,” said Patricia Ann Rodriguez, spokeswoman for Camden-Wyoming Rotary’s project. “Before the COVID-19 had done its damage we created a brochure. We have taken to our homes, in neighborhoods in Camden, Wyoming and some in Dover. So many people have subscribed.”

Dover Capital City Rotary Club is on board with its seventh annual Flags for Heroes program, a collaboration between Dover Capital City Rotary Club and Delaware Technical Community College. On display will be 400 flags between May 22 and June 2 at the intersection of U.S. 13 and Del. 1 at the Dover campus.

With so many events being canceled this display will inspire a message of encouragement and confidence of better days ahead and invites the public to participate in showing the colors, according to Larence Kirby, club president.

The Dover Capital City Rotary program’s stated purpose has always been not only to honor those who have been lost in our nation’s service but also first responders and anyone who has been a positive influence in a person’s life, including teachers, parents, mentors, community leaders and others.

“That’s particularly relevant today because we are emphasizing medical personnel, police, military members, food service workers and all those who work in daily contact with the public during this very real crisis,” said Dr. Kirill Alekseyev, program chair, who serves as medical director of Dover’s PAM Hospital.

“We like to encourage people to show their patriotism, and now of course is a wonderful time to do that and thank our service people,” said Ms. Rodriguez.

The Flags For Heroes program serves as a major fundraiser for Rotary clubs, supporting scholarships and community giving. Sponsorship, which is tax-deductible, is $50 for each 5-by-3-foot flag.

In Sussex County, plans are in the works.

“At this point we are still a ‘Go’ for 500 flags the week before to the week after Memorial Day. We’re going to make the decision May 1,” said Dan Tabler, co-chair of the Georgetown/Millsboro Rotary Flags for Heroes program. “If the quarantine is not lifted, we’re going to decide what we’re going to do. We’re still going to do it, but we may delay until Independence Day. At this point we are still a ‘go’ for Memorial Day.”

The club is busy soliciting sponsorships. “Obviously by not meeting it’s harder; it’s harder to keep people motivated,” said Mr. Tabler. “But we’re doing the best we can. And we’re making progress.”

The Nanticoke Rotary, based in western Sussex County, plans to maintain its display tradition, although fundraising is sort of on hold.

The game plan is display close to 600 flags – approximately 300 at two viewing locations along U.S. 13 in front of Johnny Janosik’s World of Furniture in Laurel, and between the Phillips Signs and Tractor Supply businesses just north of Seaford.

“Normally, this is a fundraiser for us,” said Nanticoke Rotary spokesman Rob Hemmen. “But in light of the coronavirus we’re not out soliciting for donations. We are going to display the flags over that period just to have something to counter all of the stuff that has been going – just to show some patriotism.”

The Nanticoke club is considering delaying fundraising efforts, and depending on how things are going for the July 4, putting flags back up “for that time period,” Mr. Hemmen said.

Sponsorships are welcome, particularly from individuals wishing to honor the memory of a loved one. “The main fundraisers are the corporates,” Mr. Heemen said. “We’re not trying hit those now. We’re not going after businesses right now.”

Milford Rotary Club is following a similar path as Nanticoke.

Although solicitation for flag sponsorship has been impacted by COVID-19 restrictions, upward of 300 to 400 flags will be displayed at Bicentennial Park, running several days from before Memorial Day into early June, perhaps longer.

“We’re going to go ahead and put them up. As long as we are allowed, and there is nothing in the way for us doing it, we’re going to put all the flags up for Memorial Day Weekend,” said Gary Downes, Milford Rotary Club’s Flags For Heroes committee chairman. “We’ll put the flags up like we’ve had in the past. And if get any support from the community for it, that’s fine. If we don’t, that’s fine, too. Then we’ll consider something later. Maybe we’ll put them up again, and maybe not.

Flags traditionally go up the Wednesday before Memorial Day.

“Usually, we keep them up for a couple weeks. If the city doesn’t have anything else going on in the park, maybe we’ll keep them up longer,” said Mr. Downes. “We do this as a community service.”

Earlier this spring, Southern Sussex Rotary through social media announced the postponement of its Flags For Heroes initiative.

The Lewes-Rehoboth Rotary announced its program is postponed with updates to be announced.

Georgetown/Millsboro

Flags will be on display at several prime viewing locations in Georgetown and Millsboro.

One of the most well-known is The Circle in the heart of Georgetown. Displays will also be at the Del Tech Owens Campus, the open lot across from the Millsboro Post Office, another spot near Millsboro Town Hall and also at the east Del. 24 entrance to Millsboro.

“We’re going to display 500 flags whether we sell 500 sponsorships or not. We did last year. But who knows what’s going to happen this year.,” said Mr. Tabler, noting the gracious support from the community. “We do the flags on The Circle in partnership with the town of Georgetown. We do flags in Millsboro in partnership with the town of Millsboro. Del Tech supports us; their crew installs flags there. For storage, we have help from the Marvel Museum in Georgetown. They store them for us.”

Funds raised go to the club’s support of community organizations, plus cycled flag replenishment.

“We recognize community organizations that provide direct service to the communities,” said Mr. Tabler.

The list of recent beneficiaries include Ark of Refuge Mission Shelter, Millsboro; La Esperanza; Primos Pasos; Kody’s Kids; Barbara K. Brooks Transition House, Georgetown; Shepherd’s Office, Georgetown; Boy Scout Troop 95 for camp scholarships; and Rotary Youth Leadership Conference held in Ocean City, Maryland in February.

“Another big expense, and this is our seventh year, we have to replace flags that have worn out,” said Mr. Tabler. “We have to replace 150 flags. We’re doing it in cycles. We did 200 last year.”

In addition, the Georgetown/Millsboro Rotary salutes its sponsors and heroes with an insert in Sussex Post newspaper, listing every hero, and all the sponsors, particularly corporate sponsors, Mr. Tabler said.

Camden-Wyoming

Flags will be displayed from May 21 to May 26, at homes of individual sponsors and in group locations, one being Brecknock Park.

Each flag displayed will feature a solar light on the flagpole.

As a sponsorship example, Ms. Rodriguez honors her three brothers; one who served in World War II, another in Vietnam and another who served in Germany. “I honor all three of them. My husband’s brother was in Army, so we honor him from Delaware,” she said. “It is a wonderful tribute to the men and women who have fought to save our freedoms.”

Funds raised support the club’s scholarship program for graduating seniors at Caesar Rodney High School. Last year the club awarded five scholarships. “We invite the recipients and parents to a dinner. And we always let them know the community that participates” and have contributed to Flags For Heroes, Ms. Rodriguez said.

Milford

Each flag displayed in Bicentennial Park 14 features a plaque identifying the donor and the “hero.”

Flags For Heroes proceeds have been utilized to support for many purposes including: dictionaries for all third graders in Milford School District; support the Milford High School Music programs; sending students to Rotary Youth Leadership Academy and campers to Easter Seals Camp Fairlee Manor; scholarships; support of Milford’s community food pantry and parks and recreation department and other community efforts.

Long Neck

Traditionally, Long Neck Sunrise Rotary stages its Flags For Heroes in conjunction with Veterans’ Day in November.

“We just finished a board meeting where we were discussing the logistics of our various fund-raisers and their respective timing based on the COVID pandemic, but have not reached a conclusion at this point,” said Sharon Marshall, public relations chair for the Long Neck Sunrise club.

The Long Neck Sunrise Rotary Club has sponsored a Flags for Heroes program since 2015, displaying sponsored flags on the grounds of the American Legion Post 28 in Millsboro during the weeks leading up to Veteran’s Day. In 2018 the club was able to obtain 50 sponsors of flags. This year the goal is 100, 20 of which have already been sold by members of the Long Neck Sunrise Rotary Club. Joining with the American Legion Post 28 and Warrior Community Connect is the first time the Rotary Club has entered into such a partnership to meet its fund-raising objectives, all proceeds of which will benefit veterans in need.

Dover City Capital

Members of the Dover City Capital Rotary opted to press ahead on this year’s program because it doesn’t rely on mass gatherings of people to create or to view. The display will be set up by a small group of club members maintaining social distancing among themselves in an open field.

The FFH project funds club support of community projects throughout the year.

The order form and payment availability can be accessed at the club’s website – www.DCCRotary.org -requiring no physical contact. Honorees and flag sponsors will also be identified in a two-page advertisement in the Delaware State News on Thursday, May 21.

Anyone wishing to make a private donation may send a check made to Dover Capital City Rotary Services Club (or DCCRSC), 209 Manor Drive, Middletown, DE 19709. There are also three levels of corporate sponsorship available: $250, $500, and $1,000. For more information email kirill.alekseyev@gmail.com or call 917-379-8964.


Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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