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Miniature American flags for first-graders

Lions Club tradition lives on


by: MARK MILLER - Hank Calhoun of the St. Helens Lions Club tells first-grade students at Columbia County Christian School about the importance of honoring the American flag Tuesday, March 4. Each student went home with his or her own small flag, which Calhoun advised the class to keep safe.The St. Helens Lions Club is continuing an old tradition this year — one which a leading Lion said he hopes will instill respect for a beloved American symbol in school children from an early age.

Around this time every year, Hank Calhoun makes the rounds to all the St. Helens-area elementary schools to lead the “Flags for First-Graders” program.

Calhoun explained why the Lions give miniature American flags to first-grade students while visiting a first-grade class at Columbia County Christian School in Warren Tuesday, March 4.

“We decided that we wanted kids to be able to be three things: be safe, be respectful and be responsible,” Calhoun told the group of about a dozen students in Krista Mosley’s classroom. “Now, sometimes kindergarteners are all three things. But we know by the time you get to be in first grade, you can be safe, you can be respectful and you can be responsible.”

Calhoun stressed to the students that the miniature American flags being distributed to them are not playthings and should be kept somewhere safe, such as a high shelf or another display area out of the reach of younger children and pets.

“It’s not a toy,” said Calhoun. “It’s a real American flag.”

Students responded enthusiastically to Calhoun’s presentation, answering with loud “nos” when he asked them if it would be safe, respectful or responsible to sword-fight with the flags or use them as props when playing with dolls or toy cars and belting out the Pledge of Allegiance in unison when he led a flag salute.

“You have such a lucky teacher,” Calhoun told the students.

“I am lucky,” Mosley agreed.

Calhoun said afterward he has been participating in the Flags for First-Graders tradition for at least 25 years.

“I think they get an understanding of the respect,” said Calhoun. “You find out that most of them already have a lot of that, because it’s taught in the class. But it kind of gives them an understanding that it’s not only just in the class, but that’s a respect that other people around the community also have.”

Entrusting students to take care of their own American flag also helps them learn the difference between a toy and an object they are supposed to treat with greater care, Calhoun added.

Calhoun was joined in his visit to the Christian School by Bert and Sue Mueller, also Lions Club volunteers. Sue Mueller, club treasurer, brought the flags for Mosley’s class.