After Hurricane Irma, Sea Base Alumni and Friends members stepped up to help

Editor’s note: This guest blog post was written by Suzanne Tiernan, communications director for the Sea Base Alumni and Friends Association. 


First, there was Hurricane Harvey. The news was full of damage reports and people helping each other.

Then came Hurricane Irma. We followed its track and watched it grow as it headed towards the U.S.

At one point, Irma’s projected track covered all of Florida. The anticipation, preparation and then the destruction flooded the news. Scenes again filled our newscasts about the damage and people helping people.

If you did not live in the affected area, the horror of the stories eventually wore off. You went back to work, slept in a house with electricity and enjoyed running water.

But a special few people came to action. They answered the call to help.

Jumping at the opportunity

FEMA’s search and rescue teams moved their operations into the Sea Base’s Brinton Environmental Center on Summerland Key.

Volunteers sent supplies and made donations.

The Sea Base Alumni and Friends Association (SBAFA) put out a call to all members and friends to come serve again. As an Alumni and Friends association, anyone who loves Sea Base can join. That shared experience of sun, sails, salt water and bubbles gets in your veins and does not easily wash out. The volunteers started arriving with chainsaws, tools, trucks, water and muscle power.

Sea Base and the Keys holds a special place in your heart if you have ever visited. In the case of Michael Hang of Ohio, it appeals to those who have never visited, too.

“I volunteer doing maintenance at our local camp, Seven Ranges [Scout Reservation], every week. Being a huge fan of sand, ocean and warm weather, I always wanted to experience Florida Sea Base,” he said. “When this opportunity came up I jumped at it and had a great time.”

Forever grateful to Sea Base

Jeff Kidd was the same way. An Eagle Scout and now Scoutmaster of Troop 209 in Apex, N.C., Jeff had worked at Sea Base back in 1994.

“I will forever be grateful to the opportunity that was given to me back then,” he said. “Sea Base holds a special place in my heart, so whenever Sea Base needs my help, I will do my best to help it. I experienced so many things when I worked at Sea Base that I had never been able to do before — diving on coral reefs, sailing on a tall ship, great fishing and catching lobsters. I want to make sure all Boy Scouts have the same opportunity to experience what Sea Base offers.”

A similar story is found in each volunteer. The time they spent in the Keys changed them, and they wanted to give back.

“I spent 10 unforgettable weeks at Brinton in the summer of 2017, and I wanted to give back,” said Jose Guzman of Doral, Fla.. “I met more good people and, most of all, felt part of a great team.”

Scouters are a different breed. They run towards the hard work. They see a need and help. It is just what Scouts do.

Sea Base took some licks, and there’s more work to do. But thanks to volunteers and staff, not a single program day was missed at the base.

“The staff worked hard, but we couldn’t have done it without the volunteers who came in,” says Mike Johnson, Sea Base general manager. “They worked hard at a lot of tough, dirty jobs to get the Sea Base ready to go.”

You can still help

Matthew Reineck, operations manager at Sea Base, is coordinating the volunteer efforts. Email him at Matthew.Reineck@scouting.org with your name, contact information, dates of availability, skills, equipment you can bring (it may or may not be needed) and preference for area to work (Sea Base, BEC or Big Munson).

For info on becoming a member of the Sea Base Alumni and Friends Association, visit the official website.