Bainbridge community groups have collaborated to elevate the village’s veterans.
Telephone poles in the Chenango County village were recently adorned with more than 150 “hometown heroes” banners, thanks to an effort initiated by Bainbridge resident and Lions Club member Bob Evans. The two-sided, 2-foot by 4-foot banners include photos, names and service details of veterans with a Bainbridge connection.
“Last fall, one of our members was talking to me about how he was from Hancock and telling me about a program (there) where they had hometown heroes,” Evans said. “I contacted the company, got the information and actually reached out to a lot of different community groups in Bainbridge; in addition to the Lions Club, we had Rotary, the chamber of commerce, the American Legion, the garden club and fire department, the Community Foundation and the village and the town, and everyone thought it was worth exploring.
“Early this winter, I coordinated a Zoom meeting with of all these different groups — there were nine represented — and we talked to the company and decided to proceed,” he continued. “As this evolved, the Lions Club is the one that took over administration of the program.”
Evans said partner groups offered fiscal and material support for the project, with businesses and individuals quick to follow suit.
“The chamber of commerce and the Community Foundation provided money for the brackets — that was the catalyst to get us going — then the Lions sponsored banners and … the fire department decided they’d recognize 20 of their former or present members who have been veterans. Each banner runs about $100, so it was quite a commitment.
“Then businesses and families kicked in, so it’s all kind of been word-of-mouth,” Evans continued. “There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t have someone that calls and wants a banner. It’s anyone with a Bainbridge connection, whether they grew up here and entered the service or has come here since their service.”
Since placing a 130-banner order early this year, Evans said, he has ordered 34 more and will continue accepting orders. Installation, he said, began April 28.
“We were initially going to do one (banner) per pole,” he said, “but we had so many, we had to go to two per pole. Now, we’re running out of poles, so we have a permit from NYSEG to utilize their poles and we’re trying to add to that now.”
A second round of banners, Evans said, will recognize non-veteran hometown heroes.
“Our intent was that the veterans would be displayed from Memorial Day to Veterans Day, then we’ll take them down for winter to clean and then provide an alternative, since the hardware is already there,” he said. “(Round two is open to) other groups, such as (members of) the fire department or teachers — just someone who’s made a difference in someone’s life in Bainbridge.”
Bringing the project to fruition and seeing the community’s support, Evans said, has been affirming.
“It was just the right thing to do to try to make it happen,” he said. “I think our community needed it and … we were blessed with all the community groups coming together. In my 60-some years here, I don’t know if I’ve seen all those different community groups working together on a project, so that’s been kind of neat.
“(Community members) are so thankful and proud and it means a lot,” Evans continued. “We’ve given Bainbridge residents a reason to hold their heads a little higher — literally and figuratively — and you can see them walking around and stopping to read them.”
Chamber President John Payne said he, too, saw the project’s benefits. Payne, who owns Payne’s Cranes, donated use of his equipment for banner installation.
“The Lions Club came up with the idea and … I strongly believe in supporting the veterans,” he said. “But the main thing that’s happened now, with the COVID problem over the last year, is that people are looking to show that there’s still enthusiasm in these communities; there’s still growth and a light at the end of the tunnel.
“Bob’s done a great job on this thing and he’s worked hard at it,” Payne continued. “It’s one thing to come up with an idea and another thing to make it happen … and it’s amazing how many people have bought banners.”
Payne, who said the banners represent a mix of local and out-of-state orders, said the chamber will likely develop a map for a banner-inspired walking tour.
“It’s going to be interesting, and I think it’s going to bring a lot of people up to the community,” he said. “It’s spread out, it’s a really nice project and one of the best-received projects we’ve done in a long time. It’s a great thing to honor the vets.”
For more information or to place a banner order, contact Evans at 607-267-1257.