North Carolina Group Paints Picture of Patriotism

By Meghan Vittrup
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 22, 2007 - A North Carolina group has taken a creative approach to supporting the military by promoting patriotism through the arts.

"We promote love of country, respect for the American flag and projects that support the patriotic art education of children," said Eileen Schwartz, Flags Across the Nation's founder.

Some of the projects include three annual art contests: the Flags of Freedom Patriotic Art Contest, the I Love America Day Photo Contest and the Patriot Day Photo Contest. The art submissions from the contests are used to create quilts that are displayed around the country.

In the past year, quilts appeared at venues including the Virginia Air and Space Center, Charlotte Douglas International Airport and the Charlotte Museum of History, Schwartz said.

The quilts also have traveled overseas to the deployed troops, and Veterans Affairs medical centers also have received quilt donations.

"We hope that we can get funding and more quilters in order to make thousands of art and photo quilts to donate to VA medical centers and Fisher Houses," Schwartz said. Fisher Houses provide families with a place to stay while visiting wounded servicemembers being treated at military and VA medical facilities.
"We are looking for quilters from all over the country," Schwarz said.

This year, the winning photos from the I Love America Day Photo Contest will be turned into hardboard art tiles. The public can purchase these four-inch-square tiles as part of Flags Across the Nation's "Photos in a Box" fundraiser. Each box will contain 12 art tiles and will be shipped to deployed troops to help boost their morale.

Flags Across the Nation is an America Supports You member. America Supports You is a Defense Department program connecting citizens and corporations with military personnel and their families serving at home and abroad.

The organization has benefited from this membership through exposure and increased credibility, Schwartz said. "We regularly receive e-mails from our deployed troops and families who are seeking support," she said. "They find us on the America Supports You Web site."

Last fall, a servicemember who was deploying to Iraq to take over the dental clinic at Camp Liberty in Baghdad contacted Schwartz. He was requesting patriotic art to display in his clinic.

"We have sent letters, art, posters and most recently our set of patriotic photos from our I Love America Day Photo Contest," Schwartz said. "We also partnered with General Dynamics, and the company made one of our Freedom Flags that is on the way to this unit."

Flags Across the Nation participants have vowed to continue to promote patriotism through the arts and are seeking more volunteers to assist with the organization's expanding list of projects.

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