Loans, counseling and necessities

SCI provides immediate and long-term aid to Katrina-devastated mariners
October 1, 2005

The Seamen’s Church Institute of New York and New Jersey is helping inland and deep-sea mariners affected by Hurricane Katrina today and through the months ahead as they rebuild their lives.

Chaplains in the Gulf Region and the Port of New York & New Jersey are on site to provide counseling and pastoral care. The institute also is making grants and interest-free loans through its Mariners’ Assistance Fund for such immediate needs as hotel/motel expenses, clothing, furniture, school uniforms for children, gas, food and utilities. The grants may help mariners rebuild their homes or simply “buy time” as individuals sort out how to pay bills.

Through SCI’s Mariners’ Assistance Fund, the institute has long provided financial assistance to individual mariners and vessel crews during times of critical need. Because many mariners live in the Gulf Coast/Lower Mississippi region, an unprecedented number are now in crisis. An Episcopal priest and SCI chaplain, the Rev. Jim Wilkinson, was an active-duty Army chaplain for 22 years. On Sept. 9, he was at the Economy Boat Store in Memphis, Tenn., counseling crews heading north from the aftermath of Katrina.

One evening he spent several hours with mariners on a vessel that included its crew and another crew from a vessel it was towing. “I listened carefully to stories from mariners who were in the Gulf region during the hurricane and its aftermath. They saw the devastation and heard the gunshots,” said Wilkinson.

“It was important for them to tell me their Katrina stories. But it’s not just the listening that is important. Shortly after midnight, I was leaving the vessel and heard a voice call. A mariner had left the vessel and was running to catch up with me. He said, ‘I did not get a chance to tell you this: Pray for me and crew. We need your prayers.’ So we prayed.”

The institute is seeking to recruit more River Friendly Churches to help with Christmas-on-the-River and Easter-on-the-River. SCI also is working to increase the funding available through its Mariners’ Assistance Fund to assist these mariners who will need help in the weeks and months ahead.

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