SOUTH BERWICK, Maine (NNS) -- The crew of USS Helena (SSN 725) began a relationship with the community during a "Meet and Greet" sponsored by the Helena Committee of South Berwick Oct. 28.
The event, held at the South Berwick Community Center, was an opportunity for crew members and their families to meet members of the community. After the "Meet and Greet," Sailors and their families were treated to a turkey supper at First Parish Federated Church.
Helena, a Los Angeles-class submarine homeported in San Diego, arrived at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Sept. 2 for extended maintenance including several system upgrades.
Time in the shipyard can include long hours and extended periods of time away from family. So, the "meet and greet" was an opportunity for the community to roll out the welcome mat to the crew.
"I'm a veteran with 26 years in the business. I know what it is to be deployed in a new area. We want to make it fun for them. We want to be the surrogate family for these guys and the youngsters," said Helena Committee Chairman Mal Kenney, who served in the Marine Corps and Air Force. "We want them to be welcomed here. Hopefully, we'll have a good joint relationship."
Master Chief Dave DiPietro thanked the group on behalf of the captain and crew for hosting the event.
"This is excellent. We feel so welcomed in your community. We really appreciate it," said DiPietro, the chief of the boat. "We want to thank you for making us feel so at home here, and making our families feel so appreciated. Being in the shipyard is never an easy job, but the community support is making it a lot easier."
"I think it is great. The hospitality is just amazing," said Chief Machinist's Mate Mike Haraburda, of Erie, Pa. "To get all the support we have from the shipyard community is definitely uplifting."
Prior to departing for the turkey dinner, Sailors received gift bags, which included cards decorated by 1st through 3rd grade students of South Berwick Central School.
"On the front of the card is a picture of drawing of a place in South Berwick that means a lot to the students," said Kate Smith, a music teacher at the school. "Inside of the card is blank so that sailors can write a note inside and mail them home. The students wanted everyone to feel welcome and know why this community is a special place."
The host committee, which has 27 volunteer members, has compiled a calendar of events and will work with the submarine to involve Sailors and family members in those activities. Some of those activities include a Halloween parade, a joint Christmas party with the American Legion and activities with the local ski club.
Helena, named after Helena, Mont., was commissioned on July 11, 1987. Her motto is "Proud and Fearless."
For more news from Commander Submarine Group 2, visit www.navy.mil/local/Subgru2/.