International Labor Teams Up for Great Cause


September 2013


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‘Poker Run’ Nets Thousands for Port Arthur Seafarers Center


The SIU recently joined with maritime labor friends from around the world to raise money for a worthy cause.


In mid-July, SIU Secretary-Treasurer David Heindel, Port Agent Pat Vandegrift and members Rob Weinhardt and Fr. Sinclair Oubre were among a dozen motorcycle riders that participated in an inaugural charity “poker run” benefiting the Port Arthur (Texas) International Seafarers Center. Sponsoring the event – which raised more than $4,500 – were the SIU, SIU of Canada, International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), Maritime Union of Australia, Nautilus International (British officers union) and SINDMAR (Brazilian officers union).


Poker runs normally involve participants collecting playing cards from various locations. In this case, the cards were placed in three states (Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan) on a scenic route covering approximately 1,400 miles. Vandegrift ended up with the best hand.


Future fundraisers are planned for other mariner centers around the world. As with the inaugural one, they will be organized near locations of ITF meetings.


“This is an opportunity to help the centers and a new way to make a difference for seafarers,” noted Heindel, who spurred the July 13-15 run. “The Port Arthur center does a great job for both foreign and U.S. crews, and Fr. Sinclair (who oversees the facility in addition to sailing with the SIU) has been such a tremendous ally over the years.”


He added that seamen’s centers across the globe offer not only spiritual ministry but also other services like local transportation and basic personal supplies.


“A lot of the centers are struggling to keep their doors open because of shorter port time for vessels,” Heindel noted.


Oubre said the initial run “was a great opportunity outside of the usual business meetings for leaders from maritime labor to gather, share time in a relaxed atmosphere and at the same time experience a passion that we all have as motorcyclists. I enjoyed seeing the beauty of Michigan and it’s great that through the efforts of Dave and the ITF we were able to raise so much money.”


Vandegrift said the ride “was a blast and it raised money for a good cause, which is to help sailors. It was nice to tour rural Michigan and just a great experience overall.”




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