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Letting Freedom Shine Again- Portage Exchangites re-dedicate Freedom Shrine at PHS West

Written by Chronicle Staff. Posted in Community News & People in the News, Featured

Published on July 03, 2019 with No Comments

By Steve Euvino

Portage Exchange Club members chat with Portage High School Principal Mike Stills (second from right) prior to a re-dedication of the Freedom Shrine at PHS West on June 12. The patriotic display, which arrived in 2004, needed some refurbishing.

After 15 years at Portage High School West, the Portage Exchange Club’s Freedom Shrine needed some touching-up. The collection of historic U.S. documents was restored and re-dedicated during a morning ceremony June 12.

Portage Exchange Club restoration chair Peggy Berbesque (left) and club president Kathy Cox lead a re-dedication ceremony June 12 for the Freedom Shrine at Portage High School West. The display of replicas of historic documents, originally dedicated in 2004, underwent restoration.

With school officials and Exchangites present, Kathy Cox, club president, and Peggy Berbesque, restoration chair, conducted a brief ceremony to honor not only the documents and those present, but also those who fought and died to defend the messages on those documents.

“It’s impressive,” PHS Principal Mike Stills said. “It’s a way to honor our country’s past, but it’s also important for our students to learn our history and about the sacrifices people made for our freedom.”

The Freedom Shrine, part of a national Exchange Club program, was originally presented to PHS West on May 11, 2004. Over the years, Berbesque explained, some of the displays became worn and needed some care.

The PHS West display contains copies of 19 documents from U.S. history. These include the original Bill of Rights, Declaration of Independence, Andrew Jackson’s letter on the Battle of New Orleans, Benjamin Franklin’s epitaph, the selection of Eisenhower as supreme allied commander for the D-Day invasion, the German instrument of surrender for World War II, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, the Monroe Doctrine, Washington’s first inaugural address and his copy of the Constitution, Francis Scott Key’s Star Spangled Banner, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, giving women the right to vote.

Portage Exchange Club restoration chair Peggy Berbesque reads a statement during a re-dedication ceremony June 12 for the Freedom Shrine at Portage High School West. The display of replicas of historic documents, originally dedicated in 2004, underwent restoration.

“This is dedicated to all the people who can’t be here,” Cox said.

The Freedom Shrine is a display of collected historic document replicas, intended to remind people of the efforts taken to ensure America’s freedom. The shrine originated with the Freedom Train that toured the U.S. in 1947, carrying an exhibit of historic documents.

The shrine, which comes with a study guide for history and social science classes, serves as an educational tool in schools and as a motivational display in public areas.

Portage Exchangites estimate providing 32 Freedom Shrines around the community. These include shrines at all Portage Township schools, public library, city hall, and American Legion and Veteran of Foreign Wars halls.

Displays range in size and cost, depending on the amount of document replicas. Cox said costs range from $750 to $1,500.

Nationally, the Exchange Club was founded in 1911. Today the organization has more than 20,000 members and nearly 650 clubs in the U.S. and Puerto Rice. The group’s core values involve commitment to family, community, and country.

Locally, the Portage Exchange Club’s programs include scholarships, bowl-a-thon, Challenger Little League, Germanfest, military honors breakfast, child abuse prevention events, and seniors’ ice cream social.

To learn more about the Portage Exchange Club, contact Kathy Cox at 219-730-1629.

 

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