USS RONALD REAGAN, At Sea (NNS) -- Sailors assigned to USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 14 contributed more than 650 hours of community service March 8-10 during the ship's port visit to Hong Kong.
A total of 301 Sailors from Ronald Reagan and the air wing donated their liberty time to help support 10 community relations (COMREL) projects that ranged from physical labor -- weeding gardens, cleaning kitchens, and painting fences -- to the "Host a Sailor" program that allowed Sailors time to spend with local families in Hong Kong.
"I am tremendously proud of our Sailors, and this record-setting achievement," said Capt. Terry Kraft, Ronald Reagan's commanding officer. "They approach our community relations mission with the same amazing enthusiasm that they do everything else here. They are great ambassadors."
According to Cmdr. Brent Scott, Ronald Reagan's command chaplain and COMREL coordinator, more than 500 Hong Kong residents were positively impacted by the volunteer efforts of Sailors.
On Day 1, at the Hong Kong Dog Rescue, 20 Sailors volunteered to move furniture, assemble dog kennels, clean out storerooms, walk dogs at the facility, and even perform rodent extermination. According to staff members, the facility is home to 70 animals and the efforts of the Sailors directly benefited both the animals and the families who will eventually adopt the animals.
"The dog rescue operates entirely from volunteer assistance," said Scott. "The time spent here aided the group in clearing a long 'to do' list."
Not even inclement weather could stop a COMREL project at the Cham Shan Monastery where Sailors were supposed to spend their time painting, said Scott.
"Our volunteers intended to paint the handrails that lined the sidewalks throughout the monastery," said Scott. "Instead, the 20 volunteers were brought indoors to field day the dining facility."
Additional projects of the day saw 18 Sailors help handicapped children ride horses through the "Riding for the Disabled" program. A another 20 Sailors assisted in weeding gardens and cleaning the residents' rooms at the Fu Hong Society, a residential center for handicapped adults. Rounding out the day, 25 Sailors from Ronald Reagan's Catholic choir performed during a scheduled concert at the China Coast Community, an assisted living facility for the elderly.
Sailors who worked at the Tao Fong Shan Christian Centre on Day 2 certainly earned their keep, according to Scott. The 20 volunteers spent the day doing heavy labor to help support new construction at a retreat facility owned by the Evangelical Lutheran Churches of America.
"They were involved in the heaviest, hardest labor of the Hong Kong COMRELS," said Scott. "For five hours Sailors carried sacks of concrete while bagging and moving gravel, all to be used in building a new house at the retreat site."
At the Salvation Army branch, 20 volunteers helped collect goods at six sites around the city and deliver the items to the warehouse for distribution. Sailors also helped clean and organize the warehouse, benefiting more than 200 employees and 42 children in the Hong Kong area.
"It's marvelous to see all the Sailors work," said Lt. Col. Merv Rowland, general secretary of the Hong Kong and Macau Command Salvation Army.
Sailors who volunteered at the Salvation Army were given the chance to interact with children who participated in the day care program at the location.
According to Scott, the children showed their appreciation for all of the Sailors' hard work by performing Chinese folk songs and dancing for the crew.
Ronald Reagan Sailors also presented the children of the Salvation Army with "Ronnie Bear" stuffed animals. According to Scott, smiles quickly spread across the children's faces as they cuddled their small bears and waved goodbye to the Sailors.
The final project of the day included 20 volunteers who painted dorms and hallways at the St. Barnabas Society and Home, a facility for the homeless in downtown Hong Kong. Sailors also volunteered their services at the Hong Kong Society for the Protection of Children and the Ronald McDonald House.
From March 8-10, a total of 100 Ronald Reagan and CVW-14 Sailors were paired with local families in the Hong Kong area as part of the "Host a Sailor" program. This unique opportunity allowed Sailors to tour the city, attend movies and concerts, and enjoy traditional meals at restaurants and at the homes of sponsor families.
"Ronald Reagan is a ship with many resources," said Lt. Cmdr. Roger Vanderwerken, a chaplain on board Ronald Reagan who also supported the COMREL projects. "We do more because we can. We are ambassadors and need to establish good friendships."
"It's hard work, but it's refreshing at the end of the day," said Religious Programs Specialist 1st Class (FMF) David Winter, who also helped organize the large number of COMREL projects.
According to Winter, many Sailors volunteered to lead the projects, which gave the COMREL program a unique opportunity to expand across Hong Kong and support more projects than ever attempted by another ship.
"It helped Ronald Reagan extend its goodwill to more parts of Hong Kong," said Winter.
Sailors from Ronald Reagan and CVW-14 said they were impressed by variety of available projects.
"The missions are all different," said Aviation Electronics Technician 3rd Class (AW) James Fowler. "But they are all good."
Ronald Reagan was commissioned in July, 2003, making it the ninth and newest Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. The ship is named after the 40th U.S. president, and carries the motto of "Peace through Strength," a recurrent theme during the Reagan presidency.
The Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group departed San Diego on Jan. 27 on a surge deployment to fill the role of USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63), the Navy's only permanently forward-deployed aircraft carrier, as it undergoes scheduled maintenance in Yokosuka, Japan.
For related news, visit the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn76/.