SAVANNAH, GA – August 25, 2020 – Maritime Bethel at Savannah (MBS) is proud to announce the kickoff of its Capital Campaign, titled Savannah Maritime Hospitality. Organizers hope the campaign will raise $1.1 million dollars to support the purchase and renovation of a property that will allow the organization to grow their existing mission and create a center for seafarers who arrive in the Port of Savannah.
This project will help MBS acquire the main building of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 41 Main St., Garden City, as well as the parsonage they are currently renting at 45 Main St. in Garden City on three acres of land. This is the perfect location to create a seafarers’ center as the church is positioned just outside of the main gates of the port, which will enable the Georgia Ports Authority to easily and effectively transport seafarers to the facility.
The campaign is structured in three phases, allowing the community and patrons to recover from the economic hardship of the COVID-19 pandemic and support local causes such as this initiative. For Phase I, MBS aims to raise $50,000 by October 20,2020. This will permit the organization to purchase the parsonage that they currently operate out of as well as 1.34 acres with a mortgage. For Phase II, MBS aims to raise an additional $100,000 by December 31, 2020 to own the parsonage and 1.34 acres debt free. By the same date (Dec. 31) in 2022, the nonprofit hopes to raise the remainder of the $1.1 million for Phase III to acquire the entire Good Shepherd Lutheran Church with the remaining acres as a facility to accommodate all the needs of MBS. The chapel will be used for worship, prayer and counseling and the activity building will house MBS offices for volunteers and staff, accommodation for seafarers as well as a room for seafarers to contact family via video chat, and a fellowship hall where seafarers can relax off-ship and enjoy various activities. A portion of the funds will also go toward the retirement of debt service on one of the passenger vans they rely on every day to transport seafarers; and the remaining funds will go toward interior and exterior renovations to that facility. MBS relies on the kindness of individual donors, grants and foundations. Financial pledges have been received, but much more is needed to reach the goal for this much needed facility.
Since 2007, the faith-based Christian nonprofit organization has been providing “far away from home” personal, spiritual, emotional and practical support to seafarers who come into the Port of Savannah on ships from all over the world. MBS is not affiliated with any one church or denomination and serves all seafarers regardless of creed.
Many seafarers are only in Savannah for six to 12 hours after only seeing water and industrial ports with no natural beauty for weeks on end. Naturally, being away from home and loved ones for months at a time with no affordable phone or internet connection at sea, most seafarers are desperate to connect with family and friends by email and phone. Usually seafarers want someone to listen to them, counsel them and pray with them, and this is a vital part of MBS’s mission.
“Seafarers come from over 50 nations and 5 continents creating a tremendous opportunity for the Bethel ministry, as many will end up going back to live in their countries,” said Director of Port Operations for MBS, Rich Hadeed. “The world is coming to our city and we have the chance to influence many seafarers from many different faiths and backgrounds with the love of Christ, in what we say and what we do.”
According to the Georgia Ports Authority, the Port of Savannah is the largest single-operator and fastest-growing container terminal in America with over 78,000 seafarers and 4,200 ships visiting Savannah each year. In terms of total volume, it is the fourth-largest port in the nation. Many other international ports have centers for seafarers to access Wi-Fi to communicate with loved ones, relax, enjoy a meal, shower, do laundry or relish in time away from their daily routines onboard their ships, but unfortunately, Savannah does not yet have a safe haven like this.
“Most ports have a facility for seafarers, and Savannah being the Hostess City of the South, and not having one for the thousands of international and American seafarers who depend on us every time their ships reach our port is just not fitting,” MBS Executive Director John Houchens said. “The Waving Girl statue has been a beacon of Savannah’s welcome to sailors, and we hope to truly showcase her hospitality and fellowship. Our vision is to be a ‘Home away from Home’ and to create a world-class Maritime Bethel for seafarers, the port community, Savannah tourists and mission-minded Christians. We are very excited to have the opportunity to acquire property that will help us fulfill this mission, and we are thankful to those who have and will support us in this capital campaign.”
To learn more about the Maritime Bethel at Savannah or if you wish to donate, please visit www.maritimebethelsavannah.com.
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