The Port Arthur News
When Rose Patronella asked Lorraine Blanchard to come in and assist with cooking for monthly luncheons at the Port Arthur Seafarers Center, Lorraine can’t have known she was taking on a life’s mission to the seafarers.
“I just love to cook,” Lorraine said on a recent Friday. “Today, we just threw clam chowder together because it was cool outside.” She and other volunteers served it along with several salads to patrons of the monthly fundraising luncheon at the Port Arthur International Seafarers Center. The meal was filling and delicious.
Rose Patronella was a long-time volunteer of the effort to bring a little touch of home to the seafarers. Today the Seafarers’ Center kitchen is named for her, Blanchard said.
Among others who work on the luncheons are Rita Moss, Janet Vestal, and Carol Noack, who takes the modest donations from patrons who come for the luncheon. Also omnipresent is Father Sinclair Oubre, who shared Patronella’s vision of a seafarers’ center and helped bring it to fruition.
Always in need of volunteers, the Seafarers’ Center staff, now headed by Jacqueline Boyden, on-site director, prepares gift boxes for the mariners at Christmas, and provides a place for them to communicate with families and use the center’s computers.
The Center boasts a growing library, largely the work of Tammy Domingue, from which seafarers are invited to take books to read on board. Many of the books are in languages familiar to foreign ship crews. Bagging up books and magazines for the crew of marine vessels is another service the Center volunteers provide.
Volunteers also carry the seafarers to area shopping meccas, where they introduce a lot of money into the local economy, Lorraine said. “They love to go to WalMart, and to Best Buy,” she said.
The Seafarers’ Center was established in 1973 when the commissioners of the Port of Port Arthur joined forces with area leaders in the maritime community and area churches to create a safe haven for mariners. After starting from humble beginnings meeting in homes, various locales downtown including a double-wide trailer for many years, today’s center is located in the replica of the KCS Passenger Station at the end of Procter Street. “Meeting the needs of visiting Seafarers is challenging and we are always looking for volunteers,” said Doreen Badeaux, president board of directors. “There's something for everyone to do at the Center, depending on what they enjoy doing: cooking or assisting with monthly luncheons; preparing Christmas at Sea gift boxes and "Floating Libraries"; visiting ships to welcome the mariners; or simply helping to answer phones, keep the coffee pot fresh, and welcome the mariners as they come into the Center. We even have a small army of ladies who knit caps for seafarers. This is something that people who are unable to get out of their houses can do in order to continue giving back to their community. It's a wonderful feeling for people who are "shut in" to know that they are still helping others even when confined to their homes."
For more information on volunteer opportunities, call the Center at 409-982-4504.