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Civitans line streets with Stars and Stripes

The Camellia City Civitan Club places approximately 150 American flags throughout the City of Greenville on national holidays. Advocate Staff/Andy Brown

It’s Saturday morning.

As the clock ticks its way toward 6 a.m. and the sun makes its appearance, most folks are just now reaching for that first cup of coffee if they’ve even begun to stir about.

Meanwhile, Jimmy Russell is reaching into the back of his Jeep for an American flag.

It’s the first of many flags he’ll place during the next hour, and he’s not alone.

Russell is just one of several members of the Camellia City Civitan Club that makes sure Old Glory lines the streets of Greenville during national holidays.

“It’s not the City (of Greenville) that’s getting up early to put the flags out,” Russell joked.

The Civitans began putting the flags out more than three decades ago as a fundraiser. It’s been so successful that other clubs, such as Andalusia and Grove Hill, began a similar fundraiser.

“We started it, but it was such a good fundraiser that other (Civitan Clubs) started doing it too,” Russell said.

But it’s more than just a fundraiser.

“It’s about citizenship and patriotism,” Bobby Phelps said.

On 10 national holidays — including Armed Forces Day, which was celebrated Saturday and Memorial Day, which will be celebrated Monday — the Civitans place approximately 150 flags in front of businesses, churches and even a few homes.

But it’s even more than that.

It’s about making a difference.

From the very beginning in 1917, Civitan encouraged its clubs to seek out and fulfill needs within their communities. The Camellia City Civitan Club, which just recently celebrated its 57th anniversary, saw a way to combine patriotism and service.

Each flag that is placed around the Camellia City represents a $35 donation to the Camellia City Civitan Club. That money is then used to help fund a number of projects in the area.

“We use the money to help support the Greenville-Butler County Public Library, the Greenville Art Council, the Butler County Activity Center, Joseph Ministry, DHR Children’s Christmas, JROTC Awards, two scholarships each year, Good Citizenship Awards to two students in each high school and the middle school, Safe Harbor and other charity and community projects,” Phelps said.