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Baldwin Borough Scout gives old flags a proper disposal

| Wednesday, April 9, 2014, 9:02 p.m.
Stephanie Hacke | South Hills Record
James Winter shows off the flag disposal box he made for the American Legion Post 935 in Baldwin Borough.

Torn and tattered flags across the South Hills now will have a proper final resting place.

A large, wooden box — encrusted in red, white and blue insignia — sits at the corner of the Brentwood VFW along state Route 51. A similar container – meant to give South Hills residents an easy place to drop off their old flags for proper disposal – is located in front of the American Legion, Post 935, off of Joseph Street in Baldwin Borough.

The stars and stripes on the American flag represent the strength, unity and pride of the country and its people.

“It's not just cloth. It symbolizes so much,” said James Winter, 18, of Baldwin Borough, who created the boxes as his Eagle Scout project, as a member of Boy Scout Troop 338. “That's our country. It symbolizes everything good in our country.”

As a member of the American Legion in Baldwin Borough, James' father, Bill, often hears people talk about the American flag and their frustration when they see them left flying high in disarray or tossed to the curb waiting for the next day's garbage collection.

“It's a respect for the flag,” said Bill Winter, 54.

It was the frustration he saw that led Bill Winter to suggest his son create boxes that would be used as a local collection site for flags that had seen better days.

James, a Baldwin High School senior, has participated in flag burning ceremonies with the Boy Scouts in South Park. Yet, he found that many people do not know the proper way to either hang or dispose of a flag.

“A lot of people, they just throw them out,” Bill Winter said.

With the help of four other Boy Scouts, James made three boxes that would keep the flags at strategically located places throughout the South Hills. He is still looking for a location to place the third box. The Sons of the American Legion Post 935 donated the funds – about $300 – for the three boxes to be built.

“I wanted something that would really help the community,” said James, who is creating fliers to pass out at local municipal buildings and libraries to explain to residents the proper way to hang and dispose of a flag.

The boxes, which were put out about a month ago, have created easier access for residents looking to get rid of their flags, said James Bruder, 67, a member of the Brentwood VFW Post 1810, who takes the flags collected at the VFW and to South Park for burning. Joe Renk handles the collections at the Baldwin Legion.

Previously, people who wanted to bring flags to the Brentwood VFW had to coordinate with the location's hours and many times, simply left flags lying in the vestibule.

“It's very prominent now,” Bruder said.

The hope is that the convenience will cause more people to begin properly disposing of their flags, he said.

This is the second year that Whitehall leaders are placing a box in the library lobby for two weeks prior to Memorial Day and Veterans Day to collect old flags for disposal.

The flags are taken to the American Legion Auxiliary Post 712 in Pleasant Hills for a Flag Day ceremony, where they are properly disposed.

“The flag is very important to me. It's a symbol of our country and our freedom,” said Anne Giovannitti, of Whitehall.

Collections so far from the Whitehall location have filled two large bags. The Brentwood and Baldwin locations, in the last months alone, have collected more than 70 flags, James estimated.

Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or shacke@tribweb.com.

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