by Jeanette DeVita, Program Director, Christmas at Sea
Christmas at Sea and Christmas on the River, the well-known and beloved programs at the Seamen’s Church Institute (SCI) distributing handmade gifts to seafarers entering Port Newark and mariners working on Christmas Day along the inland river system, completed its 111th holiday in 2009.
This past year, volunteers sent in, gathered, and distributed over 16,000 hats, scarves, socks, and vests; and even though the winter weather has ended, our chaplains will continue to distribute these lovingly made warm garments. 2009, an especially cold year with many days of record low temperatures, saw many mariners appreciating and using these gifts straightaway.
More than 3,000 volunteers handmade these knitted and crocheted items ... never meeting the recipients of their handmade gifts. Creators trust SCI to get their handmade items to those who need them. We received packages mailed from every state.
SCI also received many thank you notes, pictures, and emails from crews around the world, detailing how these gifts impacted their lives.
The Sea-Land Racer would like to take an opportunity to graciously thank all of the Seamen's Church volunteers who spent precious time and energy knitting the marvelous hats and scarves for our crew for Christmas. The ship travels to Northern Europe in the wintertime. It is extremely cold and the hats and scarves were a very thoughtful gift. I am wearing one as I write this letter. Some crew members onboard did not receive any Christmas gifts save those sent from you this season. We are all very grateful to you for your kind thoughts and prayers as well as the gifts that you sent us for Christmas.
As many times as we at SCI thank our amazing volunteer knitters, there is nothing like a thank you note that comes from a mariner who has been touched by a gift he or she received when needed most. We received notes from several retired mariners this year who are still touched by the memory of their handmade gifts from SCI.
Just a short line to say thank you for your services to the seamen of the world. But most of all for the bag of goodies I would find on my door on Christmas morning on what has to be about the loneliest time in a seaman's life, being in the middle of the ocean away from loved ones on Christmas Day. I have not sailed in a number of years, but when I think back on all my gifts I have received, those little bags of goodies are the ones I have treasured the most because they never failed to lift my spirits and put a smile on my face. So thank you all, especially the women knitters as I will never forget you even though we have never met. May God bless you and may you have a very merry Christmas.
I would like to thank the many volunteer knitters, packers, parishes, chaplains, ship visitors, collectors, and corporate donors who made our 2009 gift giving possible. It would not be possible without your support. Even as we distribute the remainder of gifts for 2009, we are already collecting gifts for 2010. I hope you will join us.