NORTH ADAMS -- A local organization has donated a set of six flags -- honoring the five branches of the U.S. military and prisoners of war/missing in action -- to replace those flying over the city's Veterans Memorial Park.
Members of the North Adams Elks Lodge No. 487 were on hand Tuesday to present the flags to Mayor Richard J. Alcombright and retired U.S. Army Command Sgt. Major Enrico Gaspardi, who raised over $6,000 to place the flags and poles at the park.
"I drive past those flags every day and have seen that they get tattered and torn, so I went to the lodge and asked if we could donate a set of flags at least once a year," Elks Trustee James Martin said. "We understand that Rico has already purchased two sets of flags on his own. There's no reason for him to be dipping into his own pockets for this. Times are tough. We're also hopeful that this will relieve some of his fundraising efforts."
He said the lodge members have committed to donating a set of new flags each year.
Gaspardi, a veteran of the Korean and Vietnam wars, saw his dream of having the flags installed at the park in November 2011.
"I'd like to thank all of your members for this," he said. "If I don't make it another two years, at least I know that we'll always have a new set of flags flying there."
Alcombright laughed at the comment, noting that Gaspardi had said something similar a little more than two years ago when he first broached the subject of placing the flag poles at the park.
"Rico came to me and said he wanted to see if it could be done in two years -- that he wanted to see the flags installed and raised before he died. I thought he was ill. Now he's talking in terms of another two years," the mayor said. "I'm sure that Rico will be with us for much longer than he lets on. I'd like to thank him for his efforts and to thank the Elks for this generous donation. This donation will just further perpetuate the beauty of that park."
Martin said it was the least the lodge members could do.
"There's no reason why we can't do this. It's just another way we can support the community," he said.
Past Exalted Ruler Michael Putnam and Trustee Anthony Sacco said their organization has a vested interest in supporting local veterans, as many of their members appear on the park's honor roll.
"We also have a special division that is dedicated to helping veterans," Sacco said. "I just took a truck load of donated clothes down to Soldier On yesterday. We also hold a picnic twice a year at the veteran's hospital in Northampton. We serve over 200 men and women hot dogs and hamburgers."
The local order also supports numerous local youth sports leagues and youth programs through monetary donations and donated the flag poles and flags at the POW/MIA memorial on Main Street.