SUN CITY CENTER – If you’re enjoying the view of 91 American flags flying overhead as you drive along State Road 674 this week, you have one group to thank – the Sun City Center Patriots Club.
This most recent display was put up to honor the victims of 9/11 and will be taken down Friday, Sept. 13.
The group also pays for installation and removal of the flags for displays from Memorial Day through July 4 and the week of Veterans Day.
“Originally the chamber and local military organizations were responsible,” said Uta Kuhn, Patriots Club president. “The chamber was responsible for collecting money from the community and the military groups hired workers.”
But as time went by funding and personnel dwindled.
On Sept. 11, 2003, some community members gathered to form an organization to address the situation, Kuhn said.
“They were looking start a new club to be responsible for the flags and wanted someone to be president,” she said. “Elaine Brad, the former chamber director, looked at me and said, ‘Uta, how about you?’”
Kuhn considered it an opportunity to do something patriotic and accepted. Nine years later she remains president.
After the meeting the Sun City Center Patriots Club became part of the Community Association, funding was solicited, members sought and bylaws established.
Initially the club’s 30 or so members installed the flags, but they soon realized there was too much risk in having seniors going up and down ladders. So it hired help.
The first company it hired charged $500 to put the flags up and $500 to take them down.
“We couldn’t afford that, so we hired Valley Crest, who agreed to do the entire job for about half the amount,” Kuhn said. “The manager, John Cornelius, told me it was the company’s way of giving back to the community.”
The club also collects funding for the Wounded Warrior Rehabilitation Program at James A. Haley Veterans Hospital in Tampa. Kuhn said she will be delivering a donation of $1,009 within the next few weeks.
There’s more. Club members hand out miniature American stick flags to anyone attending Memorial Day and Veterans Day observances in Sun City Center. Five years ago the club installed two permanent poles with American flags in front of the Sun City Center Service Club sign on State Road 674, which are dedicated to all community veterans past and present and are flown around the clock. Every year the club organizes the annual living flag tribute on Memorial Day at Kings Point’s Borini Theater.
“We do what we do to show appreciation for the freedoms we enjoy in this country, which many take for granted today,” Kuhn said. “I’m a German immigrant. I lived in Berlin at the time of the Berlin Wall. I know what its like to experience oppression.”
Members of the Sun City Center Forum make annual donations on behalf of their organizations to the Patriots Club Flag Fund. Kuhn said without that funding the Patriot’s Club couldn’t operate.
To join the club or make a donation, call Kuhn at (813) 642-9555.