What To Do With A Too-Old American Flag

Jul 3, 2019

On today’s program: The United Way of Southwestern PA gets new leadership; an improv comedy group helps people with Down Syndrome; Retire Your Unserviceable Old Glory honors torn, tattered or faded American flags; and everything you need to know about local politics headed into Independence Day. *The Confluence will return after the holiday on Monday, July 8.

Community partnerships still critical for local arm of United Way

The United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania has a new president and CEO. Bobbi Watt Geer, who replaces retiring CEO Bob Nelkin, joined the organization officially in 2007, and previously served as president and CEO of United Way of Westmoreland County.

She says innovation and partnerships with corporations and other charitable organizations will be key to long-term success, especially as charitable donations are down nationwide. Giving USA, which tracks the sources and uses of charitable giving in the U.S., reported a $3 million decrease in individual donations last year 2018. United Way weathered the downswing, noting a 1% increase in donations increase over the same period.

“The trend that we’re seeing is that donors who contribute larger amounts of money are making the larger share of gifts," Watt Geer says. "So United Way has pivoted some of its focus to attract and retain larger donors, as we see smaller donors drop off.”

Watt Geer says she plans to meet with community leaders in the branch’s four-and-a-half county service area over the next 90 days.

Young rowers training in Philly look upriver to the 2028 Olympics

Philadelphia is hosting one of six Olympic development camps where athletes under age 19 are already preparing for the 2028 summer games in Los Angeles. The Mid-Atlantic high school rowers are training at the Temple University boat house and rowing on the Schuylkill River. WHYY’s Mark Eichmann talked to a few hopefuls about the difficult process of training for an event nine years away.

Improv comedy uplifts Downs Syndrome troupe

The Improvaneers, an improv group, coached by comedian and improv teacher Rob Snow, is helping people with Downs Syndrome develop workplace skills. Snow’s foundation, Stand Up for Downs, raises money for Downs Syndrome causes through comedy performances. He and a member of the troupe, Dani Chase, speak to reporter Marisa Niwa, who has Downs Syndrome, about the project and how improv can teach teamwork, humor and self-confidence.

What to do when Old Glory is too tattered to fly

The Cranberry-based project Retire Your Unserviceable Old Glory has collected nearly 28,000 American flags for dignified disposal since its inception in 2011. Denise Etter keeps track of the organization's 15 drop off points and helps coordinate with local groups willing to host a ceremonial retirement, including the American Legion, scouting troops, Rotary Clubs, VFW chapters and others.

Retiring torn, tattered and faded flags isn’t a new idea, Etter says, citing the U.S. Flag Code, but Retire Your Old Glory makes the process more convenient by placing bins in high traffic areas like municipal and community centers.

Etter, whose husband Daniel served with the U.S. Army, says it was her way to give back.

"I have some patriotic feelings that run through me, and I hope everybody does," she says. "This is what I picked to make a difference."

Etter chats with The Confluence's Megan Harris ahead of Independence Day.

Shake-ups in the state and county GOP

D Raja is out as head of the county’s GOP committee and Val DiGiorgio resigned as state party chair hours after the Philadelphia Inquirer published a story detailing sexually explicit messages between DiGiorgio and a city council candidate. What might all of this mean for the GOP?

Plus Pennsylvania auditor general Eugene DePasquale announced a bid for Congress, and Pittsburgh city firefighter and county Democratic committeeperson Thomas D’Andrea is facing misdemeanor charges for a racially charged altercation with a 13-year-old black boy at a playground. 

Chris Potter, the editor of 90.5 WESA’s government and accountability team, breaks down recent developments in state and local politics.

90.5 WESA's Julia Zenkevich, Julia Maruca, Avery Keatley and Hannah Gaskill contributed to this program.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.