International Seamen's Center board president Ron Casterline has been bustling about this week with Hollywood-types, ushering them in and out of Wilmington's port using the center's Transportation Workers Identification Cards (TWIC). The federal cards are usually reserved for center volunteers.
"Iron Man 3" is shooting some scenes inside the port through Tuesday (Aug. 21), and the film crew also used the 1940s-era Seamen's Center as a rest stop and for film production meetings.
In exchange for the movie's use of the Seamen's Center, Casterline said the crew has agreed to make a donation to the center's building fund.
Any donations to the building will help, said Casterline. In the spring, the Seamen's Center's board decided to move its faith-based outreach to sailors outside of the port because the building they're in is deteriorating.
But since then, port officials told the organization it wants to continue ties with the International Seamen's Center, though it recognizes the need for the center to move to a location just outside the state port's gates.
The Seamen's Center, which is supported by donations from area churches and individuals, has been looking for an alternate location close to the port as its new location since its board voted in January to move. The move will allow more volunteers to help sailors at the center since they won't have to purchase the federal TWIC pass to enter the port each day.
The port has chosen five land locations close to its gates off Burnett Boulevard in Wilmington as potential sites for the new Seamen's Center. The center hopes to apply for grants to purchase a modular building for the site, Casterline said.
Since May, the port's engineering department has been considering which site would work best for the Seamen's Center's needs. The port has offered to lease the plot of land it chooses just outside the port to the nonprofit ministry at a low cost, he added.
"Whatever location it is, we want it to be the final location," Casterline said.
No matter what happens with the building, the Seamen's Center is forging ahead with plans for its annual Christmas gift appeal to area churches. In September, the center will send letters to area churches asking for items of comfort for international seamen such as soap, razors, hats and socks to help them on their journey. The center typically packages the gifts and brings them aboard ships to hundreds of sailors during the holiday season.