The Liberty County/Armed Services YMCA will host its first-ever “Flags for Heroes” fundraiser Saturday, March 7, at Bryant Commons in Hinesville.
According to branch manager Donna Waite, any individual or organization can sponsor a “hero” with a 3-by-5-foot American flag for $50 or 15-inch flag in a combat boot for $25. The flags will be displayed March 7-8 at the park.
Waite said some flags will be guarded by sponsors like the East Liberty County American Legion Post 321, and Fort Stewart will provide illumination.
“You can sponsor anyone you consider a hero,” Waite said. “He or she can be living or deceased, military, law enforcement, firefighter or emergency medical personnel … The ‘Flags for Heroes’ is part of the Small World Festival … People will have an opportunity to walk among the flags and take pictures as long as they do so with respect for the flag and the hero being honored.”
Waite said each flag will have a commemorative card attached at its base with the hero’s name, rank and title. Each sponsor will receive a certificate. The flags will be returned to the YMCA for future use. Nearly all funds raised will go to their annual campaign, though some will go to the Veterans Memorial Walk to be built at Bryant Commons.
“Our annual campaign is something we do every year with YMCA of Coastal Georgia, which we are a part of,” she said. “Each branch has a certain dollar amount that we try to raise … for our scholarship program, for memberships, after-school care — pretty much anything that we offer at the YMCA. We don’t turn anybody away for the inability to pay.”
The annual fundraiser goal is much less than the amount of money given away in scholarships, Waite explained. As an example, she said, their after-school care program gives away more than $86,000 a year in scholarships.
The goal for this year is to raise $31,000. As of Feb. 20, they had raised over $21,000. Because it’s their first year doing “Flags for Heroes,” they’ll have only 100 large flags and 25 boot flags. So far, they’ve sold about 30 of the large flags, she said.
Erin Chester, military-support program director, discussed another fundraiser effort to assist with this year’s annual campaign.
“Our theme for this year is ‘Tag, You’re It,’” Chester said. “We’re going around and tagging people in the community and asking them if they would be willing to make a donation to our annual campaign. Once they have (donated), they can be in our safe zone. It’s a tree, just like we had when we were kids playing tag … We crafted a tree in our lobby, and each Friday we add the names of those who’ve donated as leaves on the tree.”
A large paper-mache tree stands near the doorway in the YMCA lobby. A sign hanging on the realistic tree trunk tells visitors this is the designated Safe Zone. The leaves are small hands with the names of the persons making the donations.
Chester said she cut out the scores of orange and yellow hands hanging from the twisted branches. The hands represent the helping hand they’re giving by donating to the annual campaign.
While she was cutting out the leaves, a young man asked her what the leaves were for. When she told him, he made a donation. She added that the leaves are another way to show that they are recognized for their gift.
For more information, call Waite or Chester at 368-9622.