LAGRANGE — One by one, 30-plus new LaGrange County Hometown Heroes banners are going up on utility poles around town.
“I’m just so happy,” said Keith James, a Howe businessman who spearheaded the campaign to honor those who served. Their images and names now fly on banners placed around town on utility poles to honor those people and remind others of their sacrifice.
The first-year program was launched last spring as a means to help LaGrange County residents feel pride in their community.
“We started talking about creating events that would make people want to stay in town for the weekend, which is great for the town, great for the county, great for business,” James said in early July. “So that’s how it all kind of that was like the impetus for all this.”
LaGrange Street Department crews started hanging up the banner this week on utility poles at the LaGrange Town Hall, the town park, Parkview LaGrange Hospital, and the LaGrange First Church of God
James was attending a Leadership LaGrange conference last year when he first suggested the Hometown Heroes campaign, LaGrange County edition. James had seen other communities embrace the program and wanted to bring that kind of hometown pride to LaGrange.
Last spring, when the campaign was launched, 36 LaGrange families stepped forward. Each family paid approximately $100 to help defray the cost of creating and printing the banners. Those banners were unveiled as a special program on the lawn of the LaGrange County Courthouse the weekend before the 4th of July weekend. The banners are approximately 20 inches wide by 40 inches tall and feature a photo and the name of the person honored. They honor service members, police officers and first responders.
When the first of the banners started going up on the light poles in the LaGrange Town Hall lot Wednesday morning, James said he was overcome with emotion. James had driven to LaGrange to watch those banners go up and to take a few pictures of the crews installing the banners.
“I was getting back into my truck when it really hit me that these things are going up, and it just been a real journey,” he said “The banners are so beautiful.”
James said he continues to get requests from others in the community who want the same chance to honor one of their loved ones with a banner. Unfortunately, he has to explain to them that they’ll have to wait until next spring when the program opens up again.
“I have to say no. We’re going to wait another year because it’s really too late to start,” he explained. “We want these families to have this moment. It’s their moment to honor their loved ones. We want to let these banners shine in the sun and then, next year, we’ll start again.”
James said the second round of banners will be unveiled at a special ceremony on the courthouse lawn next summer in late June, in conjunction with a LaGrange County art fair.
Next year, the program will be expanded to allow families of teachers and medical workers to honor their loved ones as well. Those family will be able to submit photos and information for a banner next spring.