By Tim Leeds
Members of the Lions Club Swim Team will be out talking to business owners Friday about putting up American flags again in Havre.
"I have 116 flags in my garage and I'd like them flying," said Sherry Obrecht, who oversees the team's flag service with her husband, Todd.
Mayor Phyllis Leonard asked the swim team to put its flags up in Havre after the terrorist attacks on New York City and the Pentagon on Sept. 11. The last day the flags were flown was Friday, and Obrecht said people in the community have been complaining about their absence.
One of them is Harold Ferguson, who said he is very unhappy the flags were not put back up.
"Today, right now, the flag has become a visual reminder of what's going on and it's something that needs to be seen," he said.
"With all of the feeling and unity in the country, Havre doesn't have a visual impact."
The team normally puts the flags out on 10 major holidays each year. Businesses have contracts with the team, each paying it $30 to provide the service.
Leonard asked the team to put the flags up through Saturday, Obrecht said, and the team did that. But it takes too much work and money for the team to put them up and take them down every day for a month, she said.
Obrecht said the team would like to have the flags in place until Oct. 11, the last day flags will fly at half-staff under an order by President Bush. If the community will help with the work and expense, Obrecht said, the flags will go back up.
The service takes the team a total of six hours of work a day. It divides the city into three routes that each take an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening. Obrecht said she is taking the day off from work Friday to talk to businesses and see if they will help with putting the flags up and taking them down.
"I'm willing to do what I can, I just can't do it all," she added.
The team has drawn up a contract to use with businesses to loan them flags for the period. The team won't charge for the flags but asks that they be returned.
Obrecht has already gotten commitments from three businesses to display the flags, and has collected $135 in donations to replace damaged flags, as well as a donated flag.
Annmarie Robinson, team treasurer, said she has been calling team members to see if they would put the flags up, but hasn't gotten much response. It's hard to get the parents and kids to commit to six hours a day for 30 days, she added.
The team has been replacing old and worn flags for the last three years. The money the team makes with the flag service primarily funds the swim team's program, but some money is used every year to replace the 12 most-worn flags.
Obrecht said some of the flags already need to be repaired before they can be flown again, and she is looking into having them repaired. But, she said, the team estimates that 30 days of constant use will wear out about 50 flags, and the team will need more than $1,500 to replace them.
The flag service is the team's primary fund-raiser. Additional expense for replacing flags would cut directly into the kids' swimming, Robinson said. The team already has 40 to 50 flags it would like to replace but can't afford to.
Robinson said the Havre Lions Club makes donations to the swim team for working at its booth at the Great Northern Fair, and the team makes some money off of the swim meet it holds in the summer. But the flag service is by far its largest moneymaker. That money helps the team pay its rent for using the Havre Community Pool and its coach's salary, and all other expenses. The team also trades raking leaves in Pepin Park for one month's rent of the pool.
For more information about helping the team with its flags, call Obrecht at Ben Franklin Crafts, 265-3290, or at home at 265-1800, or contact swim coach Chris O'Donnell at the pool, 265-8161.