On 10 holidays a year, Edmonds residents and visitors are treated to a display of U.S. flags that pop up along streets from downtown to Perrinville to Westgate to Highway 99 — thanks to a group of committed volunteers from the Edmonds Lions Club.
Since 1990, Edmonds Lions Club members have been placing the flags in front of local businesses as a club fundraiser. Businesses pay a $30 annual fee for one flag or $90 for four flags, with proceeds used to fund a variety of Lions service projects — including eyeglasses and hearing aids for senior citizens in need, as well as college scholarships.
At 7 a.m. on Saturday morning — Veterans Day — a small group of Lions gathered at a storage shed across from the City of Edmonds wastewater treatment plant to load the 300 flags into three pickup trucks for delivery and installation along three routes citywide. Regular volunteers also include Susan Powell and Armando Ortiz, who aren’t club members but show up to help with the effort. The group then returns to each of the 300 locations before sundown to take down the flags and place them back in storage — until the next holiday rolls around.
“Most people don’t know we do this,” said Lions Club member Jim Forgey. “They think the city does it.”
The Edmonds Lions launched the project with 90 locations on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday in January 1990. The plan was to obtain the flags at cost from the office of then-Congressman John Miller, but there was a glitch and the flags didn’t arrive in time. Fortunately, one of the Lions Club members was working at Evergreen Washelli cemetery in north Seattle, which had a supply of flags used for Memorial Day and Veterans Day. The cemetery temporarily loaned the club enough flags for that first day.
Once the flags arrived from Congressman Miller’s office, Lions Club member Bobby Mills went to work, buying poles for each one, sanding them and putting pole and flag together. Mills also drilled the holes for the flags along the various business locations where they are installed — a job he continues to do today. At first, the flags were stored between holidays in Mills’ garage, then in various other locations until they found a permanent home in a city-owned storage shed across from the treatment plant.
Twenty-seven years later, Mills continues to oversee the flag project. If you would like a holiday flag posted in front of your business, you can contact Mills at 425-778-0974.
— Story and photos by Teresa Wippel