NORFOLK (NNS) -- Nearly 2,000 Sailors from the Navy's newest aircraft carrier, USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), participated in a seven-city community service project entitled "1,000 Points of Light" in the Hampton Roads, Va., area Aug. 17.
Bush Sailors participated in almost 95 projects across the area.
The day began at 6 a.m. with an event kick-off at Naval Station Norfolk's Pier 14. Lt. Sunny Mitchell, one of the event coordinators and a chaplain aboard the ship, spoke to the Sailors about serving as a global force for good in the local community and exemplifying former President George H.W. Bush's dedication to service.
"All across the word our Navy is engaged in helping people," said Mitchell, mentioning Sailors who responded to the earthquake in Haiti. "It's part of who we are as a service, and it's just as important that we carry that message to our neighbors right here in the Hampton Roads area."
From there, the crew spread out across the Tidewater region. The individual projects were coordinated by the ship's Command Religious Ministries Department. The ship's crew, coordinating with local government and non-governmental volunteer agencies, volunteered their time helping out Virginia Beach Parks and Recreation, Newport News Recreation and Tourism, Portsmouth Parks, the Norfolk Zoo and other organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and the Hampton Clean City Commission.
Members of the crew also volunteered with the Hampton Public School system to read to children.
Crews of volunteers ranging from 10 to more than 100 spread out to a wide variety of projects. While 20 Sailors cleaned up a cemetery in Virginia Beach, another 50 Sailors cleaned the goat shed and bison yard at the Norfolk Zoo. Nearly 150 Sailors installed surfacing at five different elementary schools in Newport News, and 60 Sailors assisted with various projects for Habitat for Humanity. More than 100 Sailors stripped and waxed the floors of nine schools in Portsmouth.
"As the crew of USS George H.W. Bush, we are also members of the Tidewater community," said Mitchell. "We live in Norfolk, Suffolk, Portsmouth, Hampton, Newport News, Chesapeake and Virginia Beach. Our children go to school here. We take our families to the beaches and parks here. It's important to show our neighbors that we're not just stationed here, we live here too."
Twenty Sailors went to Red Wing Park in Virginia Beach, where park supervisor, Jim Kucenski, said the George H.W. Bush Sailors completed more than 100 hours of work that would have taken weeks to complete otherwise, ranging from digging ditches and trimming shrubs to painting and pressure washing picnic areas.
"This is one of the best groups I've seen," said Kucenski. "Great enthusiasm and great attitudes, and they're getting a lot of work done."
"We live around here, and we all use this park. It's great to be able to give back," said Senior Chief Cryptologic Technician (Technical) (SW/AW) Craig Bar.
"It feels good to be outside in the fresh air working hard and making a difference," said Logistics Specialist 1st Class (SW/AW) Jilienne Commerford.
This is the second "1,000 Points of Light" community relations project conducted by Bush's Sailors. More than 1,000 Sailors participated in the inaugural project in June 2009, assisting the community in more than 20 volunteer projects.
Bush, homeported in Norfolk, is the 10th and final Nimitz-class aircraft carrier. It was commissioned Jan. 10, 2009, and is preparing for its maiden deployment in spring 2011.
For more news from USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn77/.