The holidays can be a difficult time for mariners. Many are away from family and friends and miss being able to open packages and share in the joy of giving and receiving. That’s why Seafarers’ House, a Fort Lauderdale-based nonprofit organization offering a variety of services to the world’s maritime community, launched its Shoebox Christmas program, now an official Broward 100 event.
The tally is in, and Seafarers’ House announced that more than 100 volunteers from the community collected, packaged, wrapped and delivered 1,543 shoeboxes to mariners aboard 88 different ships docked at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale. Deliveries started at the beginning of December and continued until early January.
Volunteers who helped with wrapping, packing and delivering boxes this year came from a wide array of businesses, schools, churches and organizations including: Parkway Christian School, the Knights of Columbus, the Fort Lauderdale Women’s Club and the South Florida Chapter of Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA).
Many mariners simply need the basic necessities and these boxes, which were filled with everything from socks and work gloves to toothpaste and shaving cream, are very much appreciated.
“It’s not the size of the gift, but simply the fact that these mariners who come here from a foreign country are being remembered during the holidays,” said Seafarers’ Executive Director Lesley Warrick. “Many don’t even have time to get off the ship before they set sail again, so we make sure we are able to deliver the packages to them. Our volunteers are Seafarers’ Santas of sorts.”
Mariners come from all around the world and work on container ships, tankers and even research vessels. This year, shoeboxes were delivered to crews from Russia, Greece, Germany, Philippines, Poland, Spain, India, Honduras and many other parts of the world.
Seafarers’ House started its Shoebox Christmas Program to deliver holiday gifts to ships in 2008 as a collaborative effort between the pastoral care team and a group of volunteers headed by Seafarers’ House Board Member Jill Novacek.
“Bringing holiday cheer to mariners working aboard ships and away from home during the holidays is a touch of friendship and welcome that underscores the value of maritime missions,” Novacek said. “Putting together community volunteers with our pastoral team at Seafarers’ House is a great way to care for the maritime community, while at the same time educate the broader community about the lives of mariners and the impact they have on our lives.”
The project provides volunteers with a firsthand look at life aboard a cargo ship or tanker and helps them to appreciate that the goods and lifestyle they enjoy each day are brought to them through the hard work and dedication of men and women who live and work aboard ships.