So much of the Morris area’s vibrant community is made up of individuals that exemplify the true spirit of what this area is all about, and we’d love to introduce you to one of them.
What inspired you to start Flags of Gratitude?
In late March of 2020 something out of the ordinary happened. We were hit with a global pandemic and many states, including our state of N.J, had shut down to slow the spread of COVID-19. It was a challenging time because our way of life had suddenly changed, and we knew little about this virus.
For many months, families were stuck at home having to quarantine. Many children lost in-person instruction at public school, along with their favorite activities. For a few months, most things we enjoyed became virtual. This included school, recreation, celebrations, and much more. It was a difficult time for many.
Fortunately, I was still involved in Cub Scouts, which started for me in 3rd grade. My den leader, Ms. Young, kept our electives and requirements going through weekly virtual meetings. One of the electives I chose to complete was called “Build My Own Hero,” where you had to honor a local hero and give them an award. However, due to the pandemic this was not a possibility. So I thought to myself, “Why honor one hero, when we can honor them all?”
During the pandemic, when the virus was spreading, our Frontline workers were out in the community each day risking their lives to protect us and keep us safe.
One day during the pandemic when my family and I were out walking our dog in the neighborhood, I noticed marker flags sticking out of the ground. That sparked an idea to create flags with drawings, along with positive and inspirational messages to the people who most needed it. It was my way of expressing appreciation to our frontline heroes for all their dedication and hard work.
I called on my Cub Scout den to help in creating flags of gratitude for all our first responders and health care professionals in our town, and neighboring towns. Over 600 flags were delivered to our local police and fire departments, EMTs, and healthcare professionals at Morristown Medical Center and the Atlantic Rehab Clinic.
The response to these flags was extremely rewarding… That’s when I decided to start making flags for struggling restaurants and businesses, non-profit organizations, and community heroes who deserved recognition.
What has been the most rewarding part of this project?
Over the last 18+ months I have enjoyed the journey Flags of Gratitude has taken me. I love distributing my flags and Mixtiles to others and seeing the smiles on their faces when they receive these gifts from the heart. It’s especially rewarding to honor our first responders throughout Morris County with special Mixtiles to let them know how grateful we are for their service and sacrifice. I also think it’s neat to see my flags and Mixtiles displayed as art throughout the town I live in and love. Some of my Mixtiles have even been shipped to other states in the country.
In addition, it brings me joy to know that people have also purchased Mixtiles from our Flags of Gratitude website in which 100% of the proceeds go to charity. To this date, I have already raised $6,000 for local charities. In July 2020, I raised $1,000 for a local organization called Help Morris Now to help feed the Morristown community. In addition, I also reached my $5,000 goal and donated $2,500 to St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare, and $2,500 Good Grief Organization in the summer months of 2021.
I would like to continue using the profits from our Mixtile sales to raise money for various worthy causes. One in particular is Jersey Pits Rescue (a 5013c non profit organization) which helps homeless and abused pitbulls find their forever home.
How long does it usually take you to design a flag?
Every flag takes a different amount of time to complete depending on the detail. It can take several hours to complete a set of 8. My mom has to retouch the images of each photograph she takes of my flags, then sets it to a background when creating the Mixtiles. This can also take a long time. I love using my creativity to design each flag, and I enjoy seeing how my artistic skills have developed over time.
What advice would you give another who wanted to give back to their community?
What started as a simple idea and small gesture of kindness has grown much bigger than I ever imagined.
This service project has allowed me the opportunity to spread hope, kindness, and positivity to others. What an amazing feeling it is to be able to give back to help those in need. Never underestimate that you can’t be young and make a difference. No matter what age you are, we are all capable of helping others. All it takes is an idea, initiative, and the right people to support you.
What is the hardest part of your project?
The hardest part of my project is wanting to be able to help so many worthy organizations that deserve our thanks. I wish I could do more to thank them all. I’m hoping that with continued support, I can keep this project going and it can continue to grow.
What has been your most memorable piece of art and why?
The Flags/Mixtiles that mean the most to me are the custom ones that are used to cheer up a person who is emotionally hurting. I have done quite a few that honor the memory of a pet. I want my flags and Mixtiles to hopefully bring those people happiness and comfort since they are struggling. I also love being able to honor our first responders and health professionals as they sacrifice so much to keep us safe and healthy.
This is what Flags of Gratitude is all about… being grateful and showing kindness to others.