At a December board meeting, State Port of Wilmington officials decided to grant the International Seamen's Center a low cost 15-year lease on a plot of land to move its operations inside the port.
For four decades, the port let the center use a pre-WWII building inside its gates for its faith-based outreach to sailors, but the building must be torn down to make way for the port's increase in cargo operations.
Last spring, the Seamen's Center's board said it originally intended to move its operation -hundreds of Bibles in many different languages, magazines, computers, clothing closet and leisure sports equipment for sailors - outside of the port because the building they're in is deteriorating. Last year, the center's volunteers helped and ministered to about 3,000 seafarers.
But since then, port officials told the organization it wants to continue ties with the International Seamen's Center, choosing a plot of land near the port's South gate off Shipyard Boulevard and next to the railroad tracks and the historically named "War Room Building."
"For more than 40 years, the International Seamen’s Center has provided a valuable service to mariners," said Laura Blair, the port's senior public affairs director. "The Ports is pleased to continue its partnership with the organization to ensure the group has the space it needs to carry out its work."
After the Seamen's Center completes its fundraising, it intends to purchase a module building to move to the site by April 30.
"Our goal is to provide uninterrupted service to the multi-national crews that visit our port," said Ron Casterline, president of the Seamen Center's board.
Having a seamless transition will depend heavily on raising the remaining $150,000 to purchase its building and new computer equipment so sailors can Skype and email their families across the globe. So far, the center has commitments in grants and donations from local churches and a Seafarers Trust grant for about half of its funding to move. Casterline said the center is planning a spring fundraiser as well.
"Iron Man 3" even donated to the cause after it used the center while shooting at the port last August.
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 2012 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 (Transportation Worker Identification Credential) to enter the port each day.
The center is still accepting grants and upgraded computer equipment donations.
Details: International Seamen’s Center of Wilmington P.O. Box 486 Wilmington, NC. 28402, 910-681-1603.