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Mission to Seafarers feeds souls in Seattle

Mission to Seafarers feeds souls in Seattle

As part of a series on the Episcopal Church and agriculture, the Episcopal News Service turns the spotlight on a small urban garden initiative run out of the Mission to Seafarers in Seattle. Familiar to many church knitting groups as a destination ministry for warm hats, the Mission to Seafarers is an international organization founded in 1856 which, according to its website

provides help and support to the 1.5 million men and women who face danger every day to keep our global economy afloat.

We work in over 200 ports in 50 countries caring for seafarers of all ranks, nationalities and beliefs. Through our global network of chaplains, staff and volunteers we offer practical, emotional and spiritual support to seafarers through ship visits, drop-in centres and a range of welfare and emergency support services.

In Seattle, the idea to start a garden to feed not only the seafarers but also those on land came from members of St Margaret’s Episcopal Church, and was developed with help from Episcopal Relief & Development.

In 2104, volunteers built and cultivated six raised beds for which St. Margaret’s donated the materials. That year the beds produced 1,000 servings of vegetables for local food banks and shelters. Lutheran volunteers added two more beds in 2015. Also last year, employees from Microsoft, which is headquartered in the Seattle area, helped to do general maintenance and they will return this year during the local United Way’s annual “day of caring.”

Volunteers grow vegetables for visiting seafarers, and donate to a local food pantry and churches. …

Most of the food that doesn’t go to seafarers aboard their ships goes to the West Seattle Food Bank, about three miles south of the garden, and area Episcopal and Lutheran churches.

The garden van offers rides into town for cruise ship employees in the summer, soliciting small donations. The Mission also helps shipbound sailors access cell phones and SIM cards to call home while they are in port. Mission to Seafarers Seattle Director, Ken Hawkins says that the chance to serve and interact with the seafarers offers a way around the “traditional condescension” that tends to be associated with the name “mission.”

Conversation continues on how to grow the mission in Seattle.

In 2016, Hawkins said, a conversation about how to offset the carbon footprint of churches buying altar flowers that come from outside the United States led to volunteers planting flowers and bulbs at the center. Church saved hundreds of dollars using the flowers and much of that money came back to the Seafarers in the way of donations. Amid all the work involved “we built community at the mission,” he said.

Read more about the ministry of the Mission to Seafarers here, and the ENS report about the particular ministry of the Seattle group here.

Featured image: Mission to Seafarers Seattle on Facebook: Community Garden


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