Seafarers Continue Tradition of Generosity


Februrary 2013


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Seafarers once again displayed their generosity during the holiday season in acts of giving throughout the country. From the SIU halls in Tacoma, Wash., and Ft. Lauderdale Fla., to the deck of the USNS Wheat, members donated time and money to ensure the holidays were a little brighter for the less fortunate.


In Tacoma, Seafarers conducted their fifth holiday season toy drive (and enjoyed a related luncheon at the hall). This time, the members raised more than $5,200 for Santa’s Castle, a charity dedicated to helping the families of enlisted military personnel. A portion of that money was donated by the crew of the Alaska Tanker Company ship Alaskan Legend in memory of AB John Stewart, whose death was remembered by his shipmates.


“This time of year is special for each of us. It’s our chance to give back and say ‘thank you,’” said SIU Tacoma Port Agent Joe Vincenzo. “Although we are fortunate enough in these most difficult of times to have good-paying union jobs with benefits, we do not get involved or reach out to feel better about ourselves or our circumstances or to be more thankful for the things we have. We reach out because we are all in this together and in some sense, whether near or far, we realize this and want to do our part to make things better for everyone.”


Vincenzo specifically recognized the efforts of AB Tawnia Stucker, who took it upon herself to raise funds aboard the Alaskan Legend for the project.


“It is people like Tawnia who really make the difference,” he said. “There are no brownie points or gold stars or accolades of any sort awaiting her for her efforts. She gave in the true spirit of giving by volunteering some time and asking others to make a donation while making one herself.”


Aside from giving money, Tacoma Seafarers also offered their time as shoppers for Santa’s Castle, picking out toys and presenting them to grateful parents. Vincenzo said it was impossible to not feel warmth from parents as they were given toys that would bring smiles to their children’s faces.


“It was an eye-opener for me personally to see just how humble and grateful the parents are, both the enlisted (service members) and spouses of the enlisted service members,” he said. “They are truly remarkable people who, quite frankly, deserve so much more for their service.”


Tacoma wasn’t the only place getting into the holiday spirit. Seafarers in Ft. Lauderdale spent their fourth year of giving back by helping Coast Guard families through the U.S. Marine Corp’s Toys for Tots program. Port Agent Kris Hopkins said they focused on Coast Guard families due to their close relationship with SIU mariners and the fact that many simply needed the help.


“It was really quite amazing the stories I was hearing about families that were having a tough time this year,” Hopkins said. “It’s tough for a lot of families these days.”


He added Seafarers were eager to help any way they could. Thanks to their generous donations, around 20 families had a brighter holiday season. Coast Guard Damage Control Chief Richard Moore said he and his colleagues were grateful to have the chance to work with the SIU members, adding the recipients of the toys were even more grateful.


“We jumped at the opportunity to do it,” he said. “It was great to see the looks on the faces when we reached out to them with help.”


¬†Hopkins said that’s one of the reasons his members are so excited to give back each year.


“The members are into the sense that, hey, somebody’s going to get something under the tree. A kid who was probably not going to get anything is now going to get something,” he said. “If you can put a smile on a child’s face it’s very fulfilling.”


The generosity coming out of Tacoma and Ft. Lauderdale this year was joined by the Seafarers aboard the USNS Wheat, operated by Maersk Line, Limited. Capt. Michael Hasson said the officers and crew aboard the Wheat raised more than $4,000 to benefit the U.S. Marine Corp’s Wounded Warrior Regiment and the Injured Marine Semper Fi fund.


Hasson praised the generosity shown by the officers and crew, specifically mentioning the devotion exhibited by SIU members in supporting the charities. The Wounded Warrior Regiment provides assistance to wounded and ill service members and their families as they return to duty or transition into civilian life. The Semper Fi Fund provides relief from service members’ financial needs arising from hospitalization and recovery following their service.


“I am very proud of the SIU members aboard the USNS Wheat for their selfless donation to the Wounded Warriors (Regiment) and Semper Fi Fund,” Hasson said. “The USNS Wheat officers and crew all agree that as much as these American heroes have sacrificed, they deserve the best care and support available in their hour of need.”


That giving spirit, Vincenzo said, is simply part of the DNA of Seafarers. From helping during disasters like 9/11 or Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, to giving back during the holidays, Vincenzo said Seafarers would continue to do what they could to help those in need.


“We could wax philosophical and talk about our collective identity, but all we really have to do is point to our accomplishments over the years to see just what our mettle is and how it connects us to our economic, national and homeland security,” he said.



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