The tumultuous struggles of world powers in the twentieth century have done little to guarantee a peaceful future for the majority of the world's people. However, there's one country in modern times that people flock to for safety, freedom and opportunity — the United States of America. It is hard for Americans to imagine the horrors of modern struggles over religious and ethnic differences, the very differences we embrace.
Exchange's Americanism programs were born in the aftermath of World War II. At that time, patriotism was unquenchable, and Exchangites joined veterans and other civic groups in heralding the rich blessings of democracy. In 1949, dedicated Exchangites founded the Freedom Shrine project. This collection of historic document replicas is the most educational of Americanism projects and an overpowering visual illustration of democracy at work. Milestones of Freedom was adopted in 1972 to ensure that the enriching documents of the Freedom Shrine are read and appreciated by school children, the future leaders of our country. Exchangites celebrate May as Freedom Shrine Month.
The Virginia District was organized on April 29, 1939 just prior to the establishment of the Americanism service programs. Our district was and is steeped in American history and patriotism for the very beginning of our country, so it is no surprise that all of our Exchange Clubs over the years have been very supportive of the established Americanism programs and have created ones of their own. Although there is a month associated with some of these programs, they can be done at any time of the year. The following is a list of the projects our clubs have participated in and a brief description (more details for each program are available on the National Exchange website):
Freedom Shrine — The Shrine was originally comprised of 28 historical American documents that provided proof that the freedom and greatness we enjoy today were not purchased easily and reminds us that these gifts must be cherished and protected. All of our Exchange Clubs have been involved either in an installation or a rededication of a Freedom Shrine or both. A list of all the plaques making up the Freedom Shrine can be found on the National Exchange website.
One Nation Under God — This program was established to increase public appreciation of the important roles religious faith and freedom has played in our nation's history. A prayer breakfast is a good format for this program in which you can obtain a keyonte speaker to talk about One Nation Under God. Invite a clergy member to provide the invocationa and ask an Exchangite to lead in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Proudly We Hail — Proudly We Hail honors those Americans who display the nation's banner properly and regularly. Recognition is in the form of a beautiful plaque specially designed for this purpose. Although usually the presentation is to a citizen who displays the flag properly and with respect, it can also be presented to a business or corporation who expresses the same sentiments towards our flag.
GIVEAKIDAFLAGTOWAVE — Just as its title suggests, this popular project involves the distribution of small American flags to youngsters at parades, fairs, school events or other community happenings that generate large crowds. The flags are free to the children. Also, Exchange clubs have found that giving them away at fundraisers involving children is a good project as well.
Get Out the Vote — The National Exchange Club's Get Out the Vote Program gives our clubs the opportunity to not only remind their community members of their right to vote, but also their responsibility to vote.
Adopt-A-Unit or Person — Adopt a unit or serviceperson overseas by sending correspondence and care packages, or adopt the family of a serviceperson by providing special activities and holiday treats.
Essay Contests Associated with Freedom Shrines — Setting up an essay contest involving the Freedom Shrine with a school, history or social studies teacher and the school administration is a win for verybody. Your club is involved in setting up an award system, but all of the other details can be left to the school.
Freedom Shrine Document Textbooks — Your club can donate the Shrine textbooks to the school library, available from National Headquarters, to compliment the Freedom Shrine as a useful teaching aid.
Collect Old or Worn Out Flags — Collect worn out flags from the community, using your members' connections with family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, etc. and conduct a proper flag-disposal ceremony. You can enlist the help of a local Boy or Girl Scout troop to help or take charge.
Support a Healing Field — A field full of flags can be established for many reasons. For more information, visit the Healing Field organization.
Wreaths for Veterans' Graves — Buy wreaths and place them on veterans' graves. There are organizations that can work with you on this project.
Memorial Service for September 11th Terrorist Attacks — Most all communities in Virginia have a Memorial for the September 11th terrorist attacks. Participate, or conduct one, if your community does not have one.
Sponsor Veteran Trips or Honor Flights — Taking veterans on a local outing, a baseball game, sporting event, museum, or other events followed by a picnic or meal is a great way to fellowship and show your appreciation for the sacrifice that the veterans have made. It may be easier if you are fortunate to have a Veterans Administration near you through which you can work.
Sponsor a "Day in Court" — Your club can arrage for students to spend time in court and be instructed on court procedures.
Post Flags on July 4th and Other National Holidays — Place flags on telephone poles or other poles around town to celebrate and display patriotic pride.
Work Voting Polls — Have some of your members work voting polls. Exchange is not a political organization, but we do encourage every American citizen to exercise his or her right to vote.