Scouts post over 700 flags across Batavia on Flag Day
Scouts BSA Troop 6 has been serving Batavia for almost 100 years, but their most visible contribution to community spirit is not even a decade old.
For the past seven years, the Troop's Flags Over Batavia program has increased community pride while raising funds to support Scout activities. On four holidays throughout the summer -- Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day -- the Scouts post more than 700 flags in front of homes and businesses throughout the City of Batavia.
"Flags Over Batavia has become a contribution from our troop to patriotism in our town," says Scoutmaster Jason Zimberoff, who joins his seventh-grade scout in posting and retiring flags. "Even in the early morning hours we see people who appreciate what we're doing. They wave, they want to talk to us and thank us, we often hear stories about their Scouting experience as kids."
The program has been so successful that Troop 6 has been able to eliminate its annual $400-per-Scout dues -- reducing economic barriers to Scouting for boys from across Batavia.
"Flags Over Batavia makes joining Scouting accessible, especially for families who may be struggling," says Don Miller, the troop's quartermaster and father to a 17-year-old Scout. Membership in the troop has been steadily rising over the past few years, reaching almost 50 boys this year--its highest point in decades.
Instead of joining their fellow teens in sleeping in on major holidays, Troop 6 Scouts are up early, donning their uniforms, consulting route maps and posting and saluting up to 100 flags by 9 a.m. The program teaches responsibility, problem solving and reinforces the old Boy Scout motto: "Be Prepared."
"I've had to wake up really early and put up flags on my birthday, which is the fourth of July," says Scout Nolan Schmelder, 17. "We developed a system to put up 100 flags in two to three hours; my mom would drive the car and dad and I would grab the flags and poles and put them out."
The process is reversed in the evening, when the Scouts salute and retire each flag within a two-hour window. In addition to posting the flags on holidays, the troop drills and marks holes at each flag location, cleans and repairs flags, and renews and collects subscriptions. A $25 donation is requested from each family or business that subscribes to the program.
The program has become so popular in Batavia that there is a waiting list for new subscribers, and it's not unusual to drive around Batavia on major holidays and see flags lining both sides of the street.
"Flags Over Batavia is starting to become a Batavia event in and of itself," says Zimberoff. Having a flag-themed fundraiser is also particularly appropriate for a Batavia troop, as Flag Day founder Dr. Bernard J. Cigrand was a Batavia resident.
The Flags Over Batavia program began in 2013 when former Troop 6 quartermaster Scott Wilson heard success stories from troops running similar fundraisers in other Illinois towns. Originally started in Troop 6 to help raise funds for older Scouts to attend special "high adventure" programs, within four years the fundraiser was supporting the operating expenses for the whole troop. The program funds weekend campouts and other activities for the whole troop year-round, and enables the overarching goal of Scouts BSA: teaching kids how to be responsible leaders.
"Being in Scouts allows me to stand up and help guide others," says Teague Merrill, 16. "I joined Troop 6 in fifth grade and by eighth grade I was elected Senior Patrol Leader, and my focus turned from my own activities to working with the younger scouts and helping them advance. It takes a lot of time and effort, but I like having an active role and leadership opportunities."
To learn more about the Flags Over Batavia program, visit flagsoverbatavia.weebly.com.