Tacoma Tradition: Seafarers Give Back


October 2015


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Although their generosity isn’t taken for granted, the consistent volunteerism of Seafarers in Tacoma, Washington, has been virtually automatic for many years. Most prominently, those efforts have involved donations to enlisted military families at Christmastime, and painting homes for local citizens during summers.


Both traditions are going strong in 2015, including a recent home-improvement project performed by an SIU contingent of sixteen. The work was part of the yearly volunteer program Paint Tacoma- Pierce Beautiful, launched 30 years ago by Associated Ministries.


Typically referred to as Paint Tacoma, the overall outreach normally involves hundreds of volunteers repainting exteriors of dozens of homes of low-income, elderly and disabled homeowners each summer. Last year, for instance, more than 400 people helped paint 32 houses.


This was the SIU’s ninth straight year of participation, according to Port Agent Joe Vincenzo, who along with Administrative Assistance Brenda Flesner heads up the union’s involvement.


“We’re always happy to help seniors and other members of our community here in Tacoma who are on fixed incomes do what they no longer can do for themselves,” Vincenzo said. “Each year we learn something new, or something special about the project emerges. This year I can’t help but notice the lineage between generations of the families who make up the SIU Tacoma team. Grandfathers, fathers and mothers and their children alike lined up to pitch in and help get the job done, putting a smile on the face of this year’s home owner, Vickie Matheson, who now has a warm place in her heart for Seafarers. It is true that we painted a house but the bigger picture is that we made a friend in our community…. As always I am grateful for the opportunity to head up this project and want to thank both the members for their constant support as well as staff who make this possible.”


Matheson’s genuine appreciation was evident during an early September interview with the LOG that took place the day the SIU volunteers finished their work. She mentioned that in addition to financial limitations, major back surgery precluded her from painting the home.


“They did a fantastic job,” she stated. “Everyone was so polite and just as friendly as could be. It’s just awesome and I’ve never been so blessed.”


Matheson added she was pleasantly surprised to have been selected for the project – she’d only lived in the home for a year, the minimum requirement for consideration by the program administrators.


“I’m grateful and on top of that, the (paint) color is perfect,” she said. “My house was yellow. It’s more like a creamcolor now, so much brighter and clean, and I love it. It’s a small home but I still was amazed at how quickly they got it done (taking just a few days).”


This year’s SIU group included Vincenzo, Flesner, Bosun Gerret Jarman, OMU Matthew Gilliland, GUDE Israel Serrano, AB Francis Miller, QMED John Groom, AB Justin Bowe, AB Stephen Zbornik, QMED Gary Williams, Oiler Ryan Taylor, retiree Dana Cella, Safety Director Ben Anderson and his son Ben Jr., retired SIU Representative Don Anderson, SIU Representative Warren Asp and family members Dylan and Vincent, and Emilia Flesner (Brenda’s daughter).


This was Serrano’s second straight year taking part in the effort, and he again found it very worthwhile.


“The experience was good, going out there and helping the community, being able to give back and do something for somebody else,” he said. “It also lets people know that unions give back, that we lend a helping hand. It was well-organized and it was very rewarding to see the homeowner so happy. It also helped that she’s a friendly person who expressed her gratitude.”


Bowe said it was his first time participating and he hopes it won’t be his last.


“I had a lot of fun and it went well,” he stated. “It’s something I’d always been meaning to do, but I’m usually out at sea when it happens. I think it’s great the SIU takes this opportunity to reach out to the community.”


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