Honorees attending the Exchange Club of Albany “Proudly We Hail” ceremony Friday are from left, Tom Gieryic, Frank Schaffer, Bill Graff, Nick Nicholson and Billy Thompson.
ALBANY -- When members of the Exchange Club of Albany aren't busy raising money to help child abuse victims, they support patriotism through honoring those who fly the flag.
For the club's "Proudly We Hail" program that honors those who fly the American flag, Exchangites keep their eyes open to find community members who hoist the flag as their love of country dictates.
"Our Exchange organization encourages all Americans to properly fly the flag as a visible expression of patriotism and love of country. We want to increase awareness of the flag," said John Woodward, program chairman. "What better way to show patriotism than to fly Old Glory?"
Probably the most famous "flag flyer" in the area was introduced by Woodward. Tom Gieryic became a topic of national news stories earlier this year by standing up against the rules forbidding his ability to fly his flag along the right of way at his Dawson Road vehicle repair shop.
After making his case that the flag is not a sign to Albany City Commissioners, Gieryic found remarkable support in the community.
In a compromise he erected a $2,700 pole with a larger flag on his property off the right of way. Hearing about it, one of his suppliers, NAPA auto parts, sent him a check to cover the expense.
Gieryic took the private donations that had trickled in and donated them to the Marine Corps League, which uses donations to retire and replace worn or tattered flags.
"We owe our military a huge debt of gratitude. In the U.S. we take so much for granted," Gieryic said. "If it wasn't for the military that fought for our right to fly the flag we wouldn't have it. I'm glad I brought good out of it and the needed attention to the flag and what it stands for."
The other flag honorees included residents Nick Nicholson and Bill Graff, Porterfield Methodist Church, Bill Thompson Tire Service and J. Smith Lanier Company.
At Friday's meeting, the first order of business was handing over an $11,000 check to the club's major partner, Open Arms, followed by honorable recognition to those who display the American flag.
"Open Arms is our major partner in child abuse prevention," said Exchange President Ray Hinman. "What they do goes hand in hand with what we are all about."
What Open Arms does, according to its mission statement is "bring healing, hope, and help to children, adults, and their families in need of support, intervention and prevention as a result of child abuse in all its forms."
"It is truly wonderful to have the Exchange Club's support," said Fonda Thompson, Open Arms executive director. "The members don't know the kids personally. They just do it to help the kids. That says a lot about who they are."