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Sign up now for Optimists’ Avenue of the Flags 2015

NORTH LIBERTY– Since 2011, the Optimist Club of North Liberty has been helping North Liberty residents display their patriotism.
The organization’s Avenue of Flags program is now in its fifth year, and the Optimists encourage everyone to sign up to celebrate their American spirit.
With an annual subscription and one-time fee, Optimist volunteers will place a 3 ft. by 5 ft. American flag on a 10 ft. pole in front of subscribers’ homes or businesses at dawn on each of five national holidays: Memorial Day, Flag Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day and Veterans Day. At the end of the day, volunteers will return to remove the flags, where they go into storage until the next holiday.
Initiated by Sam O’Brien as an Eagle Scout Project, in its first year the Optimists placed about 77 flags for the program.
Last year, 315 American flags were distributed.
It catches on from neighbor to neighbor, said Optimist board member Darlene Smith.
“If one person takes it on, other neighbors want to join in,” said Smith. “They think it’s cool, and want to know how to be a part of it. So if we can get one or two on a street, it grows quickly.”
The goal is for entire neighborhoods, or avenues, to be lined with American flags; Smith said certain areas on Fox Run Drive and in neighborhoods near Centennial Park are full of subscribers.
The president of a local condominium homeowner’s association recently called Smith to say he has asked 51 of his neighbors to participate.
“It’s just been wonderful when support the program,” said Smith. “And it looks just beautiful when they are all flying.”
Smith said the club welcomes business owners who also wish to sign up; since volunteers do flag placement and removal, there is no need for the business to be open or a business owner to be on the premises during the five holidays in order to fly a flag.
After a subscription is received, an Optimist member will mark the subscribers’ preferred location and contact One Call for utility marking. A permanent receptacle is installed in the marked location at ground level so it does not interfere with mowing or walking.
The program is a fundraiser for the Optimist Club of North Liberty, whose mission statement is to be a “Friend of Youth.” In 2014, the Optimist Club of North Liberty returned $20,000 back to the community.
The club’s funds go to many organizations in North Liberty that support youth clubs, events and programming. Some of those organizations are Girl Scouts, Cub Scout and Boy Scout troops, 4-H clubs, the North Liberty Community Center, the North Liberty Community Library, youth scholarships, pediatric cancer patients, the North Liberty Food Pantry, the Parent-Teacher Organizations at local schools, youth baseball and softball teams, holiday food programs, Lego Robot leagues and many more.
In 2014, it took 12 crews of volunteers to put out the flags, and if subscriptions increase, the Optimists will be in need of additional youth-oriented groups to help with the holiday installations. The Optimists split the funds half-and-half with the youth organization that volunteers to help with placement each holiday. The Optimists’ half goes to the other organizations they support.
“I think the Scouts who help really enjoy it, and it’s an easy way for youth groups to make some money without investing a lot of time,” Smith added.
The subscription costs just $40 per year and makes a great gift. It is also a nice way to honor the memory of a loved one or a special veteran, Smith said.
“I’ve had people knock on my door and say, ‘I’m a veteran. I’m so happy you are doing this,” Smith said. “It’s just a wonderful program.”
To sign up for the program by May 17, download and print the form from the website at www.nloptimist.org, email Darlene Smith at desmith325@gmail.com, or call her at 319-626-2939. Complete the form and return it with a $40 check made payable to Optimist Club of North Liberty to: Optimist Club of North Liberty, P.O. Box 106, north Liberty, 52317.