‘They Make Us All Proud’

 

December 2016

 

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Despite the decade-long record of enthusiastic volunteerism by SIU members in the Pacific Northwest, one could be forgiven for looking for any signs of a letup. After all, the two annual projects spearheaded from the SIU hall in Tacoma, Washington, can be time-consuming and (for the summertime undertaking) labor-intensive.

 

No such indications exist, though, as evidenced by the large turnout for this year’s Paint Tacoma-Pierce Beautiful project, which drew 40 Seafarers, family members and union employees. For the tenth straight year, Seafarers were part of a larger effort that normally draws hundreds of volunteers across the region who repaint houses for elderly, disabled and lowincome homeowners. The campaign itself (commonly referred to as Paint Tacoma) was founded in 1985 by Associated Ministries; last year, more than 400 volunteers worked on 24 homes.

 

“Tacoma Seafarers never cease to amaze me with their willingness to step up to the plate and take a mighty swing,” said Port Agent Joe Vincenzo, who also noted that the SIU’s other annual outreach (toy donations for military families) already is well under way. “They make us all proud and flesh out our story – even if only a little – about who we are and what we stand for in addition to our service aboard U.S.- flag commercial and military vessels.”

 

Vincenzo commended this year’s group for its attention to detail and constant willingness to do whatever was required to ensure success. The work took place from late July to early August.

 

“As you can imagine, it’s no small task to paint a house soup to nuts,” he explained. “Whether from the initial consultation with a technical advisor and homeowner, to pressure-washing and scraping, priming and painting, and cutting in and finishing, it amounts to literally hundreds of man-hours. This is their chance to hit a home run and round the bases and feel good about themselves, both as individuals and as Seafarers.”

 

‘It Looks Beautiful’

Kathleen Gladson was this year’s beneficiary of the SIU group’s work, and the disabled senior citizen had plenty of good things to say about the Seafarers.

 

“They spent at least a week on the property and they did a very good job,” she said. “I’ve [utilized] Paint Tacoma before but this group did a much better job. They did two coats and I think it’ll hold a lot better. It looks beautiful.”

 

For a couple of longtime members, 2016 offered the first chance to participate in Paint Tacoma.

 

“I’ve always been at sea when this was going on, so this was my first time,” said Recertified Steward Scott Opsahl. “You just drive by and jump in.”

 

Opsahl said he enjoyed the teamwork at the 100-year-old home, and was glad the weather proved favorable.

 

“There was a lot of camaraderie,” he said. “There’s a lot of work but you’re also having a good time, joking around. It helps spread the word that Seafarers work in the community. I was happy to do it – I jumped at the chance.”

 

Similarly, Recertified Bosun Thomas MacGregor said he “signed up because I’ve been wanting to do it for so long. It’s a really great program but I’ve been at sea every other time.”

 

The experience didn’t disappoint the bosun.

 

“I like that our union gives back to the community here in Tacoma,” he stated. “That’s why I did it. I wanted to be part of the solution. I enjoyed it and hopefully I’ll be in between ships next year and be able to participate again.”

 

MacGregor also dispelled a good-natured but inaccurate portrayal of merchant mariners as less than adept with brushes and rollers.

 

“There used to be a running joke about an advertisement that said, ‘Painters Needed – Seamen Need Not Apply,’” he noted. “That’s not true. We’re good painters. We did a good job and made sure it was quality work.”

 

For AB Francis Miller, Paint Tacoma is “something I look forward to. I do it every year if I’m not on a ship,” he said. “It’s fun. Everybody comes together and it’s almost like we’re out on a ship. It’s a good time and the homeowner is always happy.”

 

Miller said this year’s work “went really smooth. We tend to find there are some [additional] problems with the houses. This time it was rotting wood on the back of the garage, and we replaced that. They get a little more than a paint job sometimes.”

 

He concluded, “We’re happy to give the help, and if any Tacoma members are around in July, we definitely can use all the help we can get every time. Maybe in a couple of years, we can do two houses.”

 

Such a development wouldn’t surprise Vincenzo, who along with SIU Administrative Assistant Brenda Flesner coordinates the union’s involvement.

 

“One of the many things I have found to be true in all these years is that most Seafarers are proud unionists,” Vincenzo said. “They understand the importance of community service. Not all will lend a hand but most will if you ask them…. I am humbled by their commitment and hard work and I am proud to be their port agent.”

 

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List of SIU Volunteers

 

These are the individuals who comprised the SIU
team for the 2016 Paint Tacoma project:

 

Port Agent Joe Vincenzo
Administrative Assistant Brenda Flesner
Safety Director Ben Anderson
Representative Warren Asp
Nicoli Delia (Brenda’s son)
Retired SIU official Don Anderson
SREC Scott Opsahl
BREC Greg Agren
BREC Thomas MacGregor
BREC Richard Szabo
BREC Paul Cadran
ABM Abdulhak Ahmed
ABM Alfie Cicat
BAB Jozef Ignaczak
BAB Gerret Jarman
ABM Marcus Hugee (with new baby boy Tatum)
AB Nicholas Gustafson
AB Mitchell French
AB Francis Miller
AB Luvertis Alford
AB Ryan Scott
AB Luisito Tabada
AB Ryan Hill
AB Peter Stoker
AB Gregory Sharp
QMED David “Levi” Kelch
OMU Austin Anderson
OMU Abdulaziz Alsinai
OMU Arlie Villasor
OMU Nasr Sharif
GUDE Sagou Kassogue
GUDE Joseph Ritchey
GUDE Ahmed Almraisi
GUDE Dionesio Monteclaro
GUDE Mark Lata
GUDE Ayesh Ahmed
GUDE Andrew Bell
Chief Cook Hernando Basilan
SA Rupert Henry
SA Rene Caballero