First, there was Hurricane Harvey. The news was full of damage reports and people helping each other. Then came Hurricane Irma. We followed its track and watched it grow as it headed towards the US. At one point Irma covered all of Florida, then all of Georgia. The anticipation, preparation and then the destruction flooded the news. Scenes again filled our newscasts about the damage and people helping people.
If you did not live in the affected area, eventually the horror of the stories wore off. You went back to work, slept in a house with electricity and running water. Now a special few people came to action. They answered the call to help. FEMA’s Search and Rescue teams moved their operations into Brinton Center. Volunteers sent supplies and made donations. Sea Base Alumni and Friends Association (SBAFA) put out a call to all members and friends to come serve again. As the only Alumni and Friends Association, anyone who loves Sea Base can join. That shared experience of sun, sails, salt water, and bubbles gets in your veins and does not easily wash out.
The volunteers started arriving with chainsaws, tools, trucks, water and muscle power. Sea Base and the Keys holds a special place in your heart if you have ever visited, or in the case of Michael Hang of Ohio, those who had never visited. “I volunteer doing maintenance at our local camp, 7 Ranges, every week. Being a huge fan of sand, ocean and warm weather, I always wanted to experience Florida Sea Base. When this opportunity came up I jumped at it and had a great time,” shared Michael. “Doing a lot of tree work I now know what poisonwood is thanks to the knowledgeable staff. Ultimately, I saw an opportunity to give something back to the BSA and the Irma recovery. New friends, island experience, good food and have a part in Munson Island early stage recovery. What could be better? Would love to return again.”
Jeff Kidd was the same way. An Eagle Scout and now Scoutmaster of Troop 209 in Apex, NC, Jeff had worked at Sea Base back in 1994. “I will forever be grateful for the opportunity that was given to me back then. If Nick, Ed and Sam Wampler had not given me a chance back in 1994, I would have missed out on a truly life-changing experience. Sea Base holds a special place in my heart so whenever Sea Base needs my help I will do my best to help it. I experienced so many things when I worked at Sea Base that I had never been able to do before (diving on coral reefs, sailing on a tall ship, great fishing and catching lobsters). I want to make sure all Boy Scouts have the same opportunity to experience what Sea Base offers. I hope my week of volunteering creates an opportunity so that a Scout can experience the wonders of Sea Base.”
The same story resonates through each volunteer. The time they spent in the Keys changed them and they wanted to give back. “I spent 10 unforgettable weeks at Brinton in the summer of 2017 and I wanted to give back,” said Jose Guzman of Doral, FL. “I met more good people and, most of all felt part of a great team.” Scouters are a different breed. They run towards the hard work. They see a need and help. It is just what scouts do. In typical scout fashion, the volunteers got back as much as they gave, if not more. Sea Base took some licks and has more work to do but thanks to volunteers and staff, it has begun serving participants again.
Written by Suzanne Tiernan with input from volunteers at the Florida Sea Base