“We do a street party every year and the flags are our big deal.”
The Great Flag Caper began year number 19 as it has every year, with volunteers carrying the flags from the home of Nell Anne Hunt. Efforts in 2012 are dedicated to long-time volunteer Jean Burtis Dunkle, who died this year, and to all American troops. Its theme: “We Don’t Live in America. America Lives in Us.”
How did all of this get started?
“I had just moved here to Hidalgo,” said Hunt. “Everybody was real nice to me. So when it got to be the Fourth of July, I bought a couple hundred flags and put them out in a concentric circle around my house. The next year I got 400, and my neighbors got involved and we said, let’s do the neighborhood.
“Then the whole town got involved.”
The flags are made in the USA and Hunt obtains them from a company in Carrollton. Each costs 34 cents, and donations have kept pace with need. “People are very generous,” said Hunt. “It’s like the loaves and the fishes. We’re really grateful for that.”
Board member Sally Grantvedt says she is the nonprofit’s Vice President.
“I follow Nell Anne, and I do whatever she says,” said Grantvedt. “I was her neighbor when I got involved with this. I also loved going out to the airport to meet the returning service members.
“When I’m here on the Fourth, I love doing this. My neighbors are thrilled when they get their flags.”
Rumors of hard ground bubbled through the room, rapidly filling with volunteers. Hunt said one volunteer has a means to counter the lack of recent rains.
“George Stephenson has a lawn sprinkler business, and each year he gives out drill bits and drills to a lot of people so they can break through the soil. Everybody has their own system for dealing with it,” said Grantvedt.
Colleen Yard just graduated from Washington University in St. Louis and has a lifetime of flag volunteering to her credit.
“I live on Acapulco. My brother and I grew up doing this,” Yard said before moving on to hug others in the room.
Including young people is key to the growth of the program over the years. Six-year old Benson Preston was on hand to help pick up flags to distribute in the Hospital District – a worthy “what I did last summer” story to share when he attends first grade at Lively Elementary this fall.
Recycling is also part of the story. Each of the 300 or so volunteers makes a commitment to picking the flags up again on July 5 and will reuse them the following year.