PORTSMOUTH, Va. (NNS) -- While USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) is in Portsmouth, Va., undergoing a Planned Incremental Availability, more than 25 of her Sailors and Marines, and members of various local commands, spent Oct. 25 painting passageways, removing floor tile and scrubbing exterior walls at the Ecumenical Family Shelter Inc., also known as The Dwelling Place, in Norfolk.
The Dwelling Place has provided refuge to the homeless in the Norfolk area since 1986 and as HST Sailors know, every work and living environment needs maintenance and upkeep to provide a high quality of life.
"My wife and I have been involved with The Dwelling Place for more than 10 years by donating clothes and other things, but this has been my first opportunity to come out and help physically," said Dental Technician 1st Class (SW/AW) Sheldon Riddick. "I really enjoy helping in the community and seeing what I can do for others."
Riddick felt the work was a way of giving back. "All the cities in the Hampton Roads area have given us their support, so I think it's only right for us to do our part to say, 'Thanks,' and show our support in return," said Riddick.
In addition to painting, scrubbing and removing more than 100 square feet of kitchen flooring, the to-do list at the shelter included raking the yard, high-pressure washing the handicap access and fire exits, removing rotted wood from the exterior and organizing clothing donations.
The efforts were coordinated through the Single Sailor and Single Marine Liberty Programs sponsored by Morale, Welfare and Recreation.
The Dwelling Place is funded by state, federal and local grants, as well as religious groups. It is only one of many organizations to which Sailors can volunteer their time, but is one that is very close to shelter manager Tom Johnson's heart.
"Working here has really opened my eyes to the different faces of homelessness," said Johnson. "I used to think it was just the guy standing on the corner with a sign saying 'Will work for food,' or the bag lady pushing around a shopping cart, but it's families as well. I've always been the type of person to want to help others. I raised three children on an E-4 paycheck, so I understand the struggles of these families."
According to Johnson, a former first class petty officer missile technician, the work of the volunteers equaled four weeks of labor for him.
But for volunteers like Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman(SW/AW/FMF) Johnny West, it doesn't matter what the occasion or organization is, the opportunity to give of himself is enough.
"I had some time this morning, so I thought I'd come out to help," said West, a firm believer that volunteering is a "Navy tradition."
West has been donating his time and energy since he first joined the Navy 19 years ago. "I volunteer every opportunity I get because I feel good about giving a helping hand to those less fortunate," said West. "This was my first time volunteering here, but I've been involved with community events at all my duty stations around the world."
As the projects for the day came to an end, Johnson shook each volunteer's hand and extended his gratitude for the help. "I really appreciate the help and I'm glad to see that both the Navy and Marine Corps have instituted programs that benefit the community at large," said Johnson. "A little help goes a long way around here."
For related news, visit USS Harry S. Truman's (CVN 75) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn75.