SIU Maintains Holiday Tradition Benefiting U.S. Military Families

 

February 2016

 

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Tacoma-Area Seafarers Generously Donate to Santa’s Castle

 

Throughout the union’s history, Seafarers have supported American military personnel wherever and whenever needed.

 

While in most cases that backing is part of the job, a yearly philanthropic project in Tacoma, Washington, reflects the widespread, genuine respect and affection SIU members feel for our armed forces. The all-volunteer endeavor known as Santa’s Castle is a toy drive benefiting U.S. military families (primarily E-4 and below) who are enduring monetary struggles.

 

The joyous undertaking has become a staple in Tacoma, and the 2015 effort reached new heights. Buoyed by additional support from an SIU-crewed ship and two Seafarers- contracted companies, the union collected approximately $12,000 in toys and cash donations for Santa’s Castle. As usual, the gifts were stockpiled at the SIU hall in Tacoma, and the union also hosted a well-attended luncheon featuring military personnel from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Santa’s Castle representatives, Seafarers and their families.

 

SIU Port Agent Joe Vincenzo coordinates the union’s participation but is quick to credit everyone involved.

 

“This was a record year for giving, as Seafarers reached deep into their pockets to gift more than $10,000 in new toys (in addition to cash donations),” he said. “Among them were 45 new bicycles, dozens of remote-controlled cars and helicopters, a dozen or so smart watches, various complete collections of books, musical instruments, board games, dolls and so much more.”

 

He continued, “This year’s toy drive truly was ‘all hands,’ from the lobby of the Tacoma hiring hall to Crowley Maritime headquarters to the deck plates of Alaska Tanker Company’s Alaskan Legend.” Vincenzo noted that Crowley official Lee Egland donated toys, while Seafarers on the Alaskan Legend, thanks in part to the efforts and initiative of AB Tawnia Stucker, took up a cash donation from the crew and officers totaling $900 – an amount then matched by Alaska Tanker Company.

 

Santa’s Castle representative Shelly Hinzman described the SIU donation as “wonderful” and said it was the largest one from any organization for the most recent project. “We can’t thank the SIU enough,” she said. “The time and effort Seafarers put into the toy drive shows in the size and quality of the donation. Thank you!”

 

During the luncheon, Vincenzo and others touched on the U.S. Merchant Marine’s vital, historic role in supporting our war fighters and peacekeepers around the globe. Rank-and-file Seafarers also gave a robust round of applause to men and women in uniform for their service.

 

Chief Cook Nasser Ahmed not only donated to the cause, he also helped serve food at the luncheon. “It’s a very good program,” Ahmed stated. “I like to help people, and we’ve been doing this for a while. I always participate if I’m ashore and I hope to keep doing it every year. I’ll be glad to help.”

 

For Vincenzo, SIU participation in Santa’s Castle reinforces his belief that “Seafarers are among the most generous and spirited when it comes to giving. For me, this hearkens back to the time I had a medical emergency on a ship in the early 1990s in connection with a diving accident,” he recalled. “As I was heading down the gangway to the waiting ambulance, the first engineer literally came running down after me with a hat in his hand, filled with crinkled bills totaling a couple hundred dollars to see me off and wish me well.

 

“I sincerely hope that as our industry continues to change with burgeoning credentialing, new and ever-more regulations and compressed vessel schedules, that Seafarers will not forget this part of their heritage and tradition. It marks, in my opinion, the very best of who we are.”

 

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