SEATTLE – Parishioners around Puget Sound are busy knitting hats, collecting toiletries and sewing ditty bags, answering the call to help people working on cargo ships coming into the Port of Seattle.
About 2,000 of the bags will be distributed between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day by the Seattle Seafarers Center, an ecumenical ministry of the Catholic, Lutheran and Episcopal churches.
The bags contain toiletries, candy, a greeting card and a handknitted cap — a popular item with the seafarers, said Joe Cotton, the archdiocese’s director of pastoral care and outreach.
“It’s cold when they’re working out on those decks when they’re out at sea,” he noted.
Deacon Jose DeLeon of St. Paul Parish prepares for a Communion service onboard a cargo ship at the Port of Seattle. Photo: Courtesy Deacon Jose DeLeon
Parishioners at St. Cecilia Parish on Bainbridge Island made two dozen hats, and parishioners at St. Jude Parish in Redmond are knitting hats now. At All Saints Parish in Puyallup, administrative assistant Jennie Veith recently sewed 32 drawstring bags from material donated by the parish’s quilting group. (See box for information about patterns for hats and bags.)
“I made as many bags from the fabric they gave me as I could,” Veith said.
Other parishes helping out are Holy Family in Kirkland, St. Brendan in Bothell, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Bothell and St. Paul Parish in Seattle, according to Deacon Jose DeLeon, who is assigned to St. Paul as well as the Seafarers Center.
Every day, two or three ships arrive in Seattle, each with a crew of about 25; about 90% of the crews won’t be able to come ashore, according to Deacon DeLeon, who visits the seafarers on the ships.
During the pandemic, he has met seafarers who aren’t able to return home after their assignments are finished, so they continue working. Sometimes their home countries won’t let them return, he said.
Even during this time, Deacon DeLeon can visit a ship for 30 to 60 minutes. He carries a rosary and Bible, and if the crew requests and the captain approves ahead of time, he brings the Eucharist and conducts a Communion service.
“It’s really a ministry of presence,” he said.
A warm knit hat is an essential item for a cargo ship worker. Photo: Courtesy Seattle Seafarers Center
How to donate
The Seattle Seafarers Center needs donations of knitted hats, handmade cloth drawstring “ditty bags” and toiletries to fill 2,000 bags for cargo ship crews this holiday season.
Patterns for knit hats and drawstring bags are available here.
Toiletries items needed (no travel sizes) include deodorant, shaving cream, toothpaste, shampoo/body wash combo, disposable razor and a toothbrush, sealed in a single pack. Get more details here.
Monetary donations can be made online or by sending a check to: Seattle Seafarers Center, 3568 W. Marginal Way S.W., Seattle, WA 98106.