[EDITOR'S NOTE — Difference Makers articles share stories of the local heroes making a difference during the extraordinary times of the COVID-19 pandemic.]
CAMPBELL — Michael Skaleris normally uses his passion for woodworking to make handmade crafts and toys which he makes available at no charge.
In the past year, however, the Campbell native has shifted his focus to handcrafting wooden flags in support of local law enforcement and public service workers.
“I make toys for children, flags for police [and] flags for patriots,” he said.
Skaleris, 68, who works for the U.S. Post Office, told Mahoning Matters he’s made wood crafts for more than 40 years including “rocking cradles, potty chairs, jewelry boxes,” he said.
“It's all free … this is what I enjoy. I like to see little smiles on kids, I like backing the police force, I like patriotism and I don't like what's going on in the world.”
Skaleris’ wife, Janice Skaleris told Mahoning Matters that he was initially inspired to make the flags when the couple saw a man charging $20 for similar flags on Fox News. He decided to take that idea and put his own spin on it — at no cost to recipients.
For Skaleris, making flags is a creative way to show his support for law enforcement.
“It started [as] patriotic,” he said. “When the sports people were taking a knee, I started making American flags.”
Skaleris has donated both American flags, or “patriot flags” as he calls them, and blue policeman flags to public service workers throughout the Mahoning Valley, Including Liberty Local School District’s superintendent and police chief, the Youngstown Police Department and Mahoning County Courthouse as well as local fire departments and deputy sheriffs.
“I burn them with a torch to make them look rustic. The policeman's flags are painted black and burnt with the blue stripe for the thin blue line. The patriotic flags of stained red white and blue. They're also burned. And then, [they’re] just assembled [with] screws and try to make it look rustic, not beautiful,” he said.
Skaleris told Mahoning Matters that the message he hopes his wooden flags convey is to respect firemen, policemen and the American flag.
“A lot of men and women lost their lives for these flags [so] respect them,” he said.