Mayor, City Council Honor NC Seamen’s Center (12/2)


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The International Seamen’s Center of Wilmington, N.C., recently received accolades from Mayor Bill Saffo and the city council. The center issued the following news release and accompanying photo.


International Seamen’s Center Recognized by Mayor for Contributions to the Port City of Wilmington


Longtime Volunteers, Major Donors Honored for Support to Seafarers Ministry


Wilmington, NC – The International Seamen’s Center (ISC) was honored during its “2014 Homecoming Dinner” by Mayor Bill Saffo, who delivered a proclamation from the City Council that recognized the interdenominational, non-profit organization and its volunteers for their “commitment and dedication that contributes to the enhancement of the Port City of Wilmington.”


Speaking at St. Mark Catholic Church to an audience of 120 volunteers and supporters on October 30, the Mayor praised the Seamen’s Center for extending the hand of friendship and ministering to the spirit of the maritime officers and crews onboard ships moored at the Port of Wilmington.  


Saffo cited the economic and cultural contributions provided by the Center for over 40 years, stating, “The ISC has been and continues to be a valued partner to the citizens of Wilmington, its businesses, and its diverse religious community.”


The Center’s homecoming event recognized special donors and longtime volunteers who support the spiritual and material needs of over 7,000 seafarers who arrive on ships in the Port City from every corner of the world each year. 


Seamen’s Center Board Chairman Cary Newman presented “Service Award” plaques to ten longtime volunteers who had each served more than two decades supporting the Center’s mission. They include: Sally Lennon (41 years’ service), Marjorie Kunz (39 years), Walter Kunz (39 years), Betty Stines (39 years), William Stines (39 years), Ida Blalock (31 years), William Blalock (31 years), Joseph Rutten (30 years), Hugh VanZelm (25 years), and Sheila VanZelm (25 years). 


Newman also recognized a diverse group of businesses, churches, foundations, and individuals whose donations support the Center’s work, including: The Way Foundation, International Transport Workers’ Federation, North Carolina State Ports Authority, David and Jewel Tolan, Myrtle Grove Presbyterian Church, St. Andrews-Covenant Presbyterian Church, AptoHQ Web Design, All Saints Anglican Parish, First Baptist Church, St. Therese Catholic Church, and Winter Park Presbyterian Church.


Following the Mayor’s proclamation, retired U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Henry Helgesen spoke about life at sea and explained that while over 90 percent of world trade is transported on cargo vessels, it is a dangerous job and ships are lost at sea each year. Father Len Williams, Director of the Charleston Port and Seafarers Society spoke about the loneliness experienced by seamen who often spend nine or ten months a year at sea, far from their homes and families. He lauded the work of volunteers who provide a human touch and helping hand to seamen and called them the “heart and soul” of this ministry.


About the International Seamen’s Center (ISC):  In 1968, Wilmington’s churches banded together in support of an international mission to seafarers who docked at the State Port. For 45 years, the International Seamen’s Center’s work has been conducted almost entirely by volunteers, and the interdenominational non-profit relies exclusively on voluntary donations to fund the services it provides. The Seamen’s Center building is located at the State Port of Wilmington, just inside the port’s south gate, off Shipyard Boulevard. For more information about the Center’s mission, volunteer and fundraising activities, visit the website at




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