Sponsorships sought for new Hometown Hero Banners, rehangs for 2017-2018

This prototype shows the new Hometown Heroes banner design for 2017.

LOCK HAVEN — It’s been eight years since the idea was born to honor Armed Forces veterans and active duty personnel by displaying their pictures on banners hung on streetlights here.

The result has been something pretty special … special enough that dozens of communities across the state and nation launched a Hometown Hero Banner program of their own.

Many a visitor to Lock Haven has noticed the banners and stopped in at the Downtown Lock Haven Inc. office and local businesses to learn more or to simply applaud the program.

More importantly, the banners — and there have been nearly 2,000 displayed since the first ceremony on a warm day in May of 2008 — have brought many families together to honor a loved one or friend.

Well, it’s time again.

At right, Kevin and Kristy Eichenlaub hold Hometown Hero Banners, standing behind Najiah Staton, left, and Nasier Staton, also holding banners. The Eichenlaubs were among the first to purchase a Hometown Hero banner. Kevin served in the U.S. Army Reserves for 15 years and spent one tour in Iraq. He and his wife operate Kraft & Karry, 228 E. Main St. downtown. The Statons were walking by the Downtown Lock Haven Inc. office at 205 E. Main St. — banner central — and agreed to help promote the Hometown Hero Program by displaying past banners with the Eichenlaubs.

Today — on Veterans Day 2016 — Downtown Lock Haven is kicking off its sixth Hometown Hero Banner Program as community members strive to make Lock Haven the “Most Patriotic Town” in America.

“I believe there is no better way to celebrate our 2017 Hometown Heroes Program than by declaring Lock Haven the ‘Most Patriotic Town in America.’ Patriotism grew from the roots of rural America and our appreciation for the men and women who are serving or have served this nation,” said Steve Getz, a downtown board member. “It also reaffirms our values in what this country stands for by making this nation a beacon of hope and opportunity throughout the world for over 200 years. With your support, we can make this a signature event for Lock Haven and the surrounding community.”

Two banner cycles ago, DLH began honoring emergency responders, and that continues with the sixth cycle.

“What does the banner program means to me? Since its inception in 2008, we have been able to honor thousands of servicemen and women who are so deserving of the recognition,” said Krissy meeker, another DLH board member who was among the first team of volunteers in 2008.

“I got to see firsthand from my brother’s experience how it affects a soldier and his family. The sacrifices these men and women make for all of us is mind-blowing. I feel this program to honor the best of the best is minimal to what we should do for them. So, let’s continue to honor these amazing people throughout our downtown,” she encouraged.

SPENCER MCCOY/The Express Board members of Downtown Lock Haven Inc. stand in front of the agency’s office at 205 E. Main St. in downtown Lock Haven to show their enthusiasm for what will be the sixth round for sponsorships of Hometown Hero Banners that recognize Armed Forces veterans and active duty servicemen and women, plus emergency responders. From left, are Julie Brennan, Jeff Miller, Paul Ciami, Krissy Meeker, Bob Rolley, Jeff Johns, Mike Hoy, downtown manager Natasha Gorham, Josh Grimes and Steve Getz.

The banners displaying a photo, branch of service, era of service and hometown, are a public tribute to those who have or are serving America in a branch of the military, or as an emergency responder.

It is a living memorial to those who are serving, or who have served, our country through the military, law enforcement, firefighting, as EMT and paramedics and members of related professions.

A Hometown Hero Banner is not limited to past or present residents of Clinton County.

People with any connection to the community are welcome to be honored, whether the person was born and raised here, lived here for a short time, or has family who call Clinton County home.

“Sponsoring a Hometown Hero Banner is a great way to honor a family member, friend, or colleague for their service,” added Paul Ciami, also a DLH board member.

Downtown Lock Haven’s goal is to “fill our town with banners once again,” said Natasha Gorham, downtown manager.

To do that, the agency is offering a lower price for a new banner at $175 until Jan. 31, 2017. The price returns to $200 after that.

“We believe Lock Haven has the potential to grow our patriotic culture even more! Not only do we want to fill the streetlights with banners,  we want to fill the town with red, white and blue. Whether it’s American flags, window decorations, apparel … we want to see it all,” Gorham said. “Part of becoming the Most Patriotic Town in America is filling the street lights with as many banners as possible. Our goal is to have new banners and retired banners rehung to total 500 banners in downtown Lock Haven.”

There have been more than 1,000 sponsors of banners over the years.

The board is hoping those who sponsored banners in the past — and still have their keepsake banners — will step up to display them again.

In fact, retired banners can be flown again at a reduced cost of $50 per banner. Applications may also be picked up at the Downtown Lock Haven office or printed out online. The rehang applications will be accepted until July 2017.

“The Hometown Heroes banners are the cornerstone of what has become a very patriotic movement in our community when you add things like the efforts of Team RWB, the recently added Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the hard work of the Veterans Affairs folks in our community. It struck me that this could be the ‘most patriotic city in America,'” said Jeff Johns, also a board member. “When you think about the number of communities that have tapped into the banner program with great success, I think it’s time to reclaim the early success of Hometown Heroes and push to blanket the downtown with over 500 banners to show our pride of community and to thank all of the veterans who protect the freedoms we enjoy.”

“Lock Haven really is the birthplace of the Hometown Heroes Banner Program, and it’s wonderful that so many other communities have followed suit. Our efforts to become known as ‘The Most Patriotic Town in America’ is a way to help keep the banner program going strong,” added Julie Brennan, county tourism/chamber director and another DLH board member.

Applications are available at the DLH office at 205 E. Main St. and on the agency’s website at www.lockhaven.org.

The office is closed today in observance of Veterans’ Day, but those interested can leave a voice message for Gorham.

For those not familiar with our Hometown Hero Program, applications may be filled out in the office or simply picked up to complete. Applications can be printed out online and submitted via email or mail. Applications will be accepted for new banners from now until April 2017.

Photos may be given at a later time if it is difficult to find one.

The information required for the application includes the person’s name, branch of service, era of service and hometown. There will also be space for the purchaser to include a short message on the banner, for example, “In loving memory” or “From your family, thank you for your service.” Payments may be given by checks, cash and credit cards. Checks must be made out to Downtown Lock Haven, Inc.

“We would really like to see retired banners rehung in the next program to help fill each light pole with a banner,” said Josh Grimes, DLH board president. “We’ve all experienced the frustration as the holidays approach of not knowing what to give to the person who has everything. The Hometown Hero Banner Program provides a gift opportunity to honor someone you love in a unique way. I’m excited to be part of a team that wants to put Lock Haven on the map as the ‘Most Patriotic Town in America!'”

Reprints of retired banners are also available to order through the DLH office. They must be an exact duplicate for $100. Banners must be paid in full to be ordered. A sponsor will be contacted to pick up once delivered. Reprint applications will be accepted until July 2017.

For more information, contact the DLH office by stopping by (remember, the office is closed today, Veterans Day), by calling 570-748-1576, or by emailing down town@lockhaven.org.