Supplied photo courtesy of Dottie Fullerton. Cary Newman, Dottie Fullerton, Jane Brown and Loretta Brady stand with donations from the St. Therese Cathlic Church Christmas gift drive to benefit the International Seaman Center’s Christmas Sea program.

Seafarers benefit from St. Therese OUTREACH


DECEMBER 23, 2014

St. Therese Parish Community OUTREACH along with its children’s ministry organized a Christmas gift drive to benefit the International Seamen Center’s Christmas Sea program. The International Seamen Center is a Christian ministry whose mission is to minister to the spiritual and temporal needs of seafarers docked in the Wilmington port who are away from family, friends and home during this Christmas season.

Extending an expression of warm welcome and kindness to those disenfranchised sailors, the outreach, chaired by Mike George, and the children’s ministry, led by Megan Gavrillen, encouraged donations during a Christmas Gift Drive Dec. 13 and 14.

OUTREACH member Virginia Baker and her daughter Sarah Baker crocheted and knitted handmade hats. Those along with 21 tall kitchen bags containing travel-size shampoos, lotions, soaps, toothbrushes, toothpaste, toiletries, hard candy, socks, gloves, small flashlights and playing cards were among the items collected and donated to ISC.

Cary Newman, ISC board chairman, said the gifts are distributed to 600-700 seafarers from more than 40 countries, with most from the Philippines, Ukraine and Korea, from the International Seamen’s Center on the Port of Wilmington or on board ship at the port between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.

The St. Therese Catholic Church collection was the largest single donation from any church to the Christmas at Sea program at the ISC, Newman said. — Marimar McNaughton

Wilmington seamen’s group brings Christmas to international crews


December 12, 2014 

ISC-475x633A Christmas tree and lots of care packages awaited a cargo ship crew that arrived at the Port of Wilmington Friday. Photos courtesy Hilary Snow.
A Christmas tree and lots of care packages awaited a Belgian cargo ship crew that arrived at the Port of Wilmington Friday. Photos by Hilary Snow.
Each time Sabo Bulajic steps onto dry land is a cause for celebration.

“It is feeling really nice,” Bulajic, from Montenegro, said. “Then to board the ship again it is feeling not so nice.”

Bulajic may have been particularly excited to dock at the Port of Wilmington for a half-day Friday because he knew he would be greeted by a group of smiling faces, a few gifts, some homemade cookies and lots of camaraderie.ISC-3-300x337

It may not have been like going home, but it was the closest he could get to it from halfway around the world.

And that’s exactly what volunteers at the International Seamen’s Center (ISC) and The Propeller Club are going for with their ongoing mission to meet the physical and spiritual needs of crew that come through the Port City.

Founded 45 years ago, the Wilmington chapter of the ISC is an interdenominational organization, housed at the Port of Wilmington, that provides short-term amenities and luxuries not found at sea–telephones, phone cards and computers to contact family members, snacks, television, affordable clothing for purchase, transport around town and even an onsite chapel and free Bibles.

The Propeller Club, which just recently reorganized after a decade of dormancy, supports the ISC’s efforts in its overall mission to promote the maritime industry and its related partners.

ISC-2-300x400While ISC annually ministers to more than 7,000 seafarers, volunteers acknowledged the holidays are the most crucial time of year. The group’s Christmas at Sea program provides seamen with a little something extra–needed items like gloves and hats, toiletries and goodies, such as candy and magazines.

Volunteer Carol Borneman said last year, ISC handed out over 700 care packages to crews from dozens of countries between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Items are donated by a growing group of area churches, along with help from partners like The Propeller Club.

What most people don’t realize, Borneman said, is that crews often sign on for a nine-month stint–most of that time isolated aboard ship. Bulajic and his peers, for example, will leave Wilmington en route to Liverpool, England, but will celebrate Christmas Day at sea.

“If you met the people who came off the ships…they’re just so nice and so appreciative,” ISC volunteer Janet Capillary noted.

“I love it when they’re here at the computers Skyping and say, ‘Come meet my family,’” Borneman added.

Capillary’s husband, Henry Capillary, is one of ISC’s two current chaplains. Like his wife and other volunteers, he said the experience is “heartwarming,” both personally and from a greater spiritual perspective.

“People don’t realize how far away these guys are from home. They don’t get to see their families at Christmas. It’s just nice to show them that someone halfway around the world cares about them,” he said. “And to share the love of Christ. It’s like being a world missionary without having to leave home.”

A job at sea isn’t easy, especially during the holidays.


December 5, 2014

So, two non-profits are bringing joy to mariners this December.

The International Seamen Center and The Propeller Club are giving gifts to 30 ships expected to dock at the state port. Vasile Balan is a world away from home.

“I’m from Romania,” Balan said.SEAMENXMAS

Seamen, like Balan, spend anywhere from 3 to 9 months at a time on a ship.

“It’s kind of like serving time in jail,” Balan said.

For him, that means Christmas at sea.

“Christmas time is the worst time to be on board the vessel,” Balan said. “That is for sure, because everybody likes to be with family.”

That is where the International Seamen Center comes into play.

“We’re just generally there,” volunteer Wanda Wammack said.

Wammack says their 40 volunteers do it all.

“If they need to go shopping, we take them shopping,” Wammack said. “If they need to go buy groceries for a whole month at sea, we take them to do that, anything that they would like to do.”

They work all year round, but during the holidays they do a little more. They put together gift bags with the little things like razors, shampoo, and gloves. Wammack says that’s all it takes.

“They are so thankful for little things,” Wammack said. “Whereas, we Americans take things for granted. They appreciate things so much.”

She says that is what brings her back every week.

“It’s nice to be needed,” Wammack said. “You know?”

Balan says it is what he needs: a home away from home.

“They give support to anybody that needs and they’re understanding,” Balan said.

Balan says the little gifts mean the world.

“I mean every time matters, but during Christmas any gift you receive is like a gift from God,” Balan said.

The Seamen’s Center says they expect to give out more than 700 gifts this year, but they always need more volunteers and donations.

For more information, go to their website To donate personal care products, you can contact Ritchie Wammack at 910-297-3669.

International Seamen’s Center Honored

December 9, 2014

Wilmington’s International Seamen’s Center (ISC) was honored during its recent 2014 Homecoming Dinner by Wilmington mayor Bill Saffo, according to a release from the nonprofit organization.

Saffo delivered a proclamation from City Council that recognized the interdenominational, non-profit organization and its volunteers for their “commitment and dedication that contributes to the enhancement of the Port City of Wilmington,” the release stated.

Saffo also cited the economic and cultural contributions the ISC has provided for its 40-plus-year history, and was quoted in the release as saying “The ISC has been and continues to be a valued partner to the citizens of Wilmington, its businesses, and its diverse religious community.”

ISC board chairman Cary Newman presented Service Awards plaques to ten longtime volunteers: Sally Lennon (41 years’ service), Marjorie Kunz (39 years), Walter Kunz (39 years), Betty Stines (39 years), William Stines (39 years), Ida Blalock (31 years), William Blalock (31 years), Joseph Rutten (30 years), Hugh VanZelm (25 years) and Sheila VanZelm (25 years), the release stated.

Newman also recognized a diverse group of businesses, churches, foundations, and individuals whose donations support the center’s work.

The ISC, located near the Port of Wilmington, serves the spiritual and material needs of more than 7,000 seafarers whose ships dock at the port each year, coming from all around the world. Its work is done almost entirely by volunteers and it relies for funding exclusively on voluntary donations, the release stated.

International Seamen’s Center Recognized


November 18, 2014

WILMINGTON | The International Seamen’s Center was recently honored during its 2014 Homecoming Dinner by Mayor Bill Saffo for its commitment and dedication that contributes to the enhancement of the port city of Wilmington. Saffo delivered the proclamation to the interdenominational, nonprofit organization and its volunteers while addressing 120 volunteers and supporters at St. Mark Catholic Church. He cited the economic and cultural contributions provided by the center for more than 40 years.