SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – Throughout the borough, more homes may soon adorn old glory thanks to an initiative made possible through donations by the South Plainfield Elks #2298 and American Legion Chaumont Post 243.
At the Borough Council’s Oct. 16 meeting it was announced that the Elks and American Legion donated a combined $6,000 to purchase 1,000 American flags. The flags are currently available to residents free of charge on a first-come, first-serve basis through the South Plainfield Department of Public Works (DPW).
“This is just a good patriotic thing to do and the Elks and American Legion have been great partners in seeing it come to fruition,” said Mayor Matt Anesh. “We are not looking to strong arm people into displaying flags but instead spark an interest and provide the flags to those who may be interested in displaying one on their home.”
The idea to adorn the borough in more red, white, and blue stemmed from a comment Anesh made back in June. Speaking at the Elks’ 2017 Flag Day Ceremony, the mayor comments how he proudly displays the flag at his home and that it would be nice to see more flying throughout the borough.
“During that ceremony and over the years, I’ve recounted stories about how, after 9/11, we saw flags all over; there seemed to be flags on every pole, hanging from windows, and even on cars. Back then, you couldn't find a flag if you wanted one but, over the years, it has seems to have tapered off,” said Anesh. “I mentioned how it would be nice to get back to where we once were, when it seemed like every house had one, and how neat it would be if every residence in South Plainfield had an American Flag to display.”
In a light hearted way, Anesh asked Councilman Joe Wolak, a member of the Elks, to help make the project become a reality and, immediately following the ceremony, the ball started rolling. Peter Smith, former president of the New Jersey State Elks Association, offered to spearhead the initiative and sought support from Robert Bengivenga, Sr. of the American Legion.
"The mayor and council came up with an idea during our Flag Day ceremony and we asked the American legion to part take,” said Smith, adding, “In light of all that is going on with our National Anthem and the controversy surrounding standing for our flag, I personally feel, as a veteran, that we should honor our nation and salute our flag.”
In the months following the Flag Day ceremony, Council President Derryck White put Smith in touch with Jennifer Hoffman, the store manager of Home Depot, who worked to provide the flags at a reasonable cost.
“Pete came to me with these ideas and donations that they collected and I thought it was so nice what they were doing. We were able to assist and give them a good deal on the flags and help them out,” said Jennifer Hoffman, former store manager of the South Plainfield Home Depot, adding, “It wasn't a big deal. We are happy to help and try to do a lot for the community.”
Additionally, at the suggestion of Elks Trustee Tim Kelly, the borough’s public works department also became involved with Supervisor Len Miller arranging for the flags to be distributed to residents during the fall leaf bag period.
“We appreciate the donation of the flags from the Elks and American Legion,” said Miller. “We are happy to be able to distribute them with the leaf bags to those residents who come in.”
According to Wolak, what started out as a ‘light hearted comment’ made by the mayor ‘quickly became reality.’ “Thanks to the South Plainfield Elks, the South Plainfield American Legion, Home Depot, Pete Smith, Bob Bengivenga, Council President Derryck White, and Mayor Anesh this off the cuff idea became a reality,” said Wolak. “What a great way to have more South Plainfield residents display and honor the American flag.”
“Through this effort between the Elks and American Legion, along with the town’s commitment and Home Depot giving us a great price, we were able to purchase 1,000, made in the USA flags for the residents of South Plainfield,” added Smith. “We are happy residents will be able to get these flags in time for Veterans Day and display them proudly for many patriotic holidays to come.”Flags are available first come, first serve, while supplies last and can be obtained, along with leaf bags, at the Public Works Garage on Spicer Avenue weekdays from 7 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. through Nov. 22 and on Saturdays, Nov. 4 and 11 from 8 a.m. to noon; to obtain 20 free biodegradable leaf bags, please bring the blue coupon that came in the mail. For information on flag etiquette and how to properly display the American flag, visit http://www.usflag.org/flagetiquette.html.
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