Flag program rejuvenates Iowa post

About eight years ago, American Legion Albaugh-McGovern Post 42 in Ankeny, Iowa, was nearing bankruptcy. Today, Post 42 is on solid fiscal ground, regularly donating money to several American Legion programs and local organizations. A major factor in the turnaround is the post’s participation in The American Legion Flag Rewards program, offered by American Legion Emblem Sales.

Gerald R. Ballard, a World War II Coast Guard veteran and member of Post 42, has been selling American flags to businesses in the Ankeny community. Ballard, 91, keeps a meticulous spreadsheet of his 105 customers and the more than 400 flags he sells annually.

"It (selling flags) is for the support of my Legion post," he said. "I’m not bragging, but I make the post $6,000 to $7,000 per year and that feels pretty good."

Through the Flag Rewards program, Post 42 also has earned more than $1,100 in rewards in 2012 to spend in 2013. When posts buy American flags from Emblem Sales, they earn free credit to purchase items from the Emblem Sales catalog or website – including, but not limited to, awards, uniforms, shirts, caps, pins, coins, patches, flags and baseballs.

"The Flag Rewards program is a great way to earn financial support to fund post activities, such as Color Guard uniforms, Boys State programs, American Legion Baseball teams, school awards, community awards, grave decoration, etc.," said Kevin Carothers, Emblem Sales marketing manager. "Many posts are earning hundreds of dollars in free credit."

To get started in the Flag Rewards program, post adjutants can register their post by calling Emblem Sales at (888) 453-4466 or by going online to www.emblem.legion.org. Once registered, posts are encouraged to organize a Flag Rewards committee that consists of a designated flag officer and Sons of The American Legion and Auxiliary members. The committee would focus on strategizing how to identify and obtain customers within the community.  

Mitchell Arney, Post 42 adjutant, said Ballard has long been the backbone of the post.

"He is the foundation of this post. He has been involved in all of our activities, and gives more than 100 percent in everything he does," Arney said. "Gerald just has a very loyal endearment to The American Legion and to our servicemembers, and he has become the resource for people who want a quality flag, want to support The American Legion and our community."

For Ballard, selling American flags is a labor of love.

"The Legion flag sales are important for what we want to do. If we want to continue to support the community, we’ve got to have some funds," Ballard said. "The day is coming that – I’m crowding 92 – when I won’t be selling. But for now, it’s better than sitting in a chair at my age."