SIU Again Steps Up for Santa’s Castle; Military Families Benefit
From a distance, it may seem as if the steady philanthropic outreach practiced by SIU members in the Pacific Northwest happens by rote.
But even a brief series of conversations with those most closely involved in projects including Santa’s Castle quickly and powerfully illustrates joyful, thoughtful giving that makes a difference in people’s lives.
Most recently, the SIU participated in Santa’s Castle for the eleventh straight year. The all-volunteer program is dedicated to providing Christmas gifts to U.S. military families (primarily E-4 and below) who are experiencing financial hardship.
For the 2017 holiday season, Seafarers (including retirees, family members and union employees) teamed up to donate approximately $9,500 worth of toys through the hall in Tacoma, Washington. The haul included nearly 30 bicycles, dozens of drones and remote-controlled helicopters and cars, American Girl dolls, musical instruments and much more.
Recertified Steward Amanda Suncin stated, “Any time I can be a part of something so beautiful that makes such a difference, I want to be part of it. The military does so much for us, and we have so many blessings throughout our lives…. I just love the way that our union gets involved. To me, it’s an honor, and a lot of credit goes to Joe (Port Agent Joe Vincenzo, who spearheads the SIU’s participation).”
QMED Elliott Duncan sounded similarly enthused.
“It’s a really positive thing,” he said. “Everybody seems to enjoy donating and having a good time giving back. I’ve definitely enjoyed being a part of it. Paint Tacoma is another great program.” (The SIU also participates in Paint Tacoma Beautiful each summer. It’s a program through which area volunteers paint and repair dwellings for homeowners who are unable to do it themselves.)
Shelly Hinzman is the president of Santa’s Castle, which is the formal name of both the program and the organization itself (it’s a private 501(c)(3)). She said, “The donation that we get from the Seafarers always blows us away. We are always so appreciative.
Hinzman also enjoyed the annual luncheon during which the toys were moved from the hall to delivery trucks. The hall was packed with volunteers (and with good food).
“I’ve been to three of those luncheons and the SIU always treats us so wonderfully,” she noted. “It’s the highlight of our season to go visit them.”
Hinzman said the overall program “went very well this year,” and benefited 925 military families (2,131 children).
Anita Vargo also is familiar with the SIU. She’s the purchasing vice president for Santa’s Castle.
“The Seafarers always start our year off for us,” she said. “The men and women who donate all the presents are amazing. They go way far beyond our expectations every year. The families are so appreciative, and we are blessed to be partners with you.”
Vincenzo emphasized the specific desire to brighten the holidays for military personnel. He said the donations “make a difference in the lives of those who dedicate themselves in service to others. There is some fanfare that arises in connection with our annual toy drive and holiday luncheon, but that is not the story and doesn’t speak to why Seafarers step up every year bearing gifts.”
He continued, “The story is the gift of giving itself, and knowing that in a small way and for a time, a soldier and his or her family’s life was made better around the holidays…. It brings out the best of who we are, and the good will that it generates is worth far more than the actual dollar amounts of all the toy drives that we have done to date.”