Coast Guard service doesn’t stop on water

SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine – The Coast Guard is known for its service to mariners in distress and its commitment to the safety and security of the ports, but during 2008 in northern New England, local Coast Guard men and women made positive impacts off duty as well.

Over the past year, Coast Guard members in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont partnered with many different local organizations throughout the region to try and improve the communities in which they live and work.

“Despite the notion that military families move from region to region frequently, Coast Guard families typically find a deep commitment and get involved with the community, regardless of the duration,” said Chief Petty Officer Justin Olson, the executive petty officer aboard the 65-foot Coast Guard Cutter Shackle.

Olson was one of eight crewmembers from the South Portland-based icebreaking cutter who recently helped build a house on Washington Avenue in Portland through the Habitat for Humanity program.

“It’s great to volunteer your time and skills to help improve the quality of others’ lives,” Olson added.

Responding to challenging winter weather and daunting heating oil prices, Rockland, Maine, Coast Guard personnel volunteered 200 hours of their time winterizing over 20 homes in Knox County.

“The effort helped those who were unable or couldn’t afford to better prepare their homes for winter,” said Chief Petty Officer Matthew Ripley, a machinery technician at Station Rockland. “We hope that our work helps keep some of our neighbors warm and saves a few dollars this winter.”

Partnering with Knox County Home Energy Committee, Ripley spearheaded the effort, which included significant logistical planning and training.

Other volunteer projects this year included debris removal from Casco Bay, Toys for Tots, collecting food for a food pantry, and participating in local parades and community events from Caribou to Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Additionally, Sector Northern New England supported the Sea Cadet program, which educates youth in seamanship, nautical science and leadership.

“It’s our way of giving back,” said Cmdr. Brian Downey of Sector Northern New England. “Public service is a large part of why people are drawn to join our service. It’s only logical that our workforce is enthusiastic about supporting the community in which we live and work.”

In 2009, Coast Guard personnel in northern New England will develop a Partnership in Education program, which places Coast Guard staff in local classrooms to assist teachers with tutoring.

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