PHOTO: Melanie Whapham assembles one of 20 kits that went to the Christmas-at-Sea initiative of Seafarers International House, and will be distributed to merchant marines at sea on Christmas.
While the members of St. Stephen Lutheran Church, Marlborough, could not gather this year in person to knit as a group or assemble gift packages, they worked together – while apart – to make sure that a group of merchant marines will have presents for Christmas. This is the fifth year the church has participated in the Christmas-at-Sea initiative of Seafarers International House, collecting and knitting items for those who will be out to sea over the holidays.
In the first year of participation, Saint Stephen sent five kits; the second year they doubled their efforts and sent ten; the third year they put together 15 kits. Last year and this year they collected and packaged 20 kits that will be Christmas gifts.
Members of the Knit Wits group created warm hats with coordinating scarves, while the Greeting Card ministry made Christmas cards. Others donated items and money for the 20 satchels that were packed with heavy, hooded sweatshirts, thermal socks, chocolate bars and nuts. Coordinating the project was Melanie Whapham of Marlborough. When all items were collected, Melanie and Jane Woolsey assembled the final satchels, which were shipped to the Seafarers ministry in Connecticut for distribution. This was also a Thrivent Action Team project. The seed money awarded by Thrivent, a financial services company, was used to purchase some of the sweatshirts.
The Knit Wits enthusiastic activity yielded 35 hats, with the extras donated to the Hudson Food Pantry. Knitters included Jane Woolsey, Marlea Dutt, Elaine Recklet, and Norma DuBois of Hudson, Jan Conlin of Southboro, Peg Harbert of Shrewsbury, and Ann Gibson of Maynard.
Seafarers are often isolated and lonely, sometimes without the means to contact family frequently, or purchase needed items while in port. Typical contracts put most at sea for 10 months a year, and they remain a largely forgotten population at the holidays.
Seven Lutheran chaplains support the Seafarers Port Mission. When requested, they will board merchant marine ships to provide pastoral care and counseling. During the holidays, chaplains distribute the packages to ships that port in New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, Philadelphia and southern New England that will be out at sea for Christmas.
This past holiday season, a record 2601 crew members regardless of faith or nationality, received satchels. Seafarers International House is an ecumenical mission of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to seafarers and sojourners, as well as people who are distressed, disadvantaged, and displaced. For more information, check out https:/www.sihnyc.org