‘Flag man’ Blevins turns program over to Kiwanis

Published 9:41 am Tuesday, January 27, 2015

NW0127 Flag Program

It wasn’t a torch that was passed; it was a flag.
Longtime “flag man” of Carter County Dean Blevins recently handed over control of the Civitan Club Flag Service to the Elizabethton Kiwanis Club. The flag service makes sure an American flag is installed outside participating businesses on holidays and special occasions.
Blevins has been a one-man flag force since 1996, but after dealing with health concerns, he felt it was time to find someone else to oversee the flag program.
“This is not a case of wanting to,” Blevins said. “I didn’t want to quit. I figured I would do this all my life, but I can’t.”
The flag program was started in 1970s, and businessman Fred Hoss convinced city officials to install one and a half inch pipes into the sidewalks in downtown Elizabethton during the urban renewal project to hold the flags. Blevins joined the Civitan Club in 1982 and started helping immediately in the flag program.
Blevins, who is a veteran, was drawn to the flag program and said the fact that the club had the service was one of the factors that led him to join.
When he first started working with the flag program, Blevins was in charge of placing some of the flags that were displayed. There were about 50 participants, and most of them were in downtown Elizabethton. Hoss continued to support the program and purchased an old postal service truck for the club to use to deliver the flags in. Blevins used the truck until it became too expensive to maintain before switching over to his personal vehicle.
Then in 1996, he took over the flag program completely and was in charge of placing the flags out himself. He continued with this, sometimes with the help of the president of the local chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America Jerry Campbell, until his back pain became too much to continue. He said he had scheduled medical treatments for the pain and thought he would be able to work around them but it didn’t work out.
“I hated the thought of being the one that killed the program,” Blevins said. “I thought the best thing to do would be get someone else to take over. The Kiwanis Club has and that is great.”
Kiwanis club member Danny Smith said the program would continue on as it always had under Blevins’ leadership. The flags will be installed outside participating businesses 10 times a year.
“We didn’t want to see this program fall by the wayside,” Smith said. “We admire Dean and all the work he has put into this. It looks good for the city to have the flags out on those holidays.”
Participating businesses agreed it was the patriotic flair the flags brought to their businesses that had them participating. Lingerfelt’s Pharmacy has been involved in the program since it was started in the 1970s.
“It is great to have the flags in downtown,” said Mike Lingerfelt, owner and manager. “It makes the town look very nice, and patriotic, to have them on display. It brings a little extra color to downtown.”
Dino’s Restaurant co-owner John Williams said the flags added “charm” that most towns did not have anymore.
“It looks great, especially on a patriotic holiday,” Williams said. “It is a little nostalgic. In today’s modern society it offers a charm that can’t be found in other towns.”
The only change for the program is how the money collected will be used. Participants pay a small fee each year to have the flag put out in front of their business.
Blevins used to donate to the special education programs of the local schools and to host a picnic for those students, which he said was one of his favorite parts of being involved.
“I enjoyed putting on the picnic and seeing all the kids,” he said. “That picnic was definitely a highlight for me. I will miss the interaction with those children. From what I understand, the Kiwanis focuses on children and they have good project. I am extremely pleased they have taken it over.”
Smith said money collected now will be used by the Kiwanis Club for one of the children’s projects the club works on.

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