Apprentices with the foundation worked at booths to showcase what they do with the Seaport Foundation.
Photo by James Miessler/Gazette Packet
Seaport Day, the free annual festival organized by Alexandria’s Seaport Foundation, had something of interest for everyone in attendance on Saturday, Sept. 30. Whether they were newcomers attracted by the sounds of live music or folks who have grown familiar with the fundraiser, those who showed up were treated to informative displays about the foundation’s work, activities for children, local Italian food, intricately crafted boats and more.
“This is much more of a everybody’s welcome, no fee to get in, just come and enjoy what we do and celebrate our mission,” said Kathy Seifert, vice-president of development for the Seaport Foundation.
The Seaport Foundation, a non-profit organization that utilizes mentors to teach at-risk youth carpentry, boat building and workplace skills, relies on events like Seaport Day to generate funds that enable the foundation to stay on course with its mission. But equally important as fundraising, events like Seaport Day serve to educate residents about the work that the nonprofit does and the services it provides to youth in the community.
“You’d be surprised how many local people are unfamiliar with the work that we do,” said Seifert. “A lot of them see the floating building on the water and how adorable it is, and they think that that’s just great, but they really don’t know what goes on in that building and that lives are really being changed. So that’s powerful when you tell people.”
Among those in attendance was Ralph Erickson, a volunteer with the Seaport Foundation since 1994, who has seen firsthand the way the program can positively shape the apprentices under its wing.
“There are apprentices who are here, troubled youth maybe, it’s a place where they can maybe get some stability that they don’t have in the rest of their life,” said Erickson. “I’ve known several who have come out of the program and made a real success of themselves. I think it’s a real plus for the community.”
Numerous apprentices like Matthew Perez manned various booths at the festival, educating attendees on what they do with the Seaport Foundation and the impact that it has on them. Perez decided to check out the foundation after his friend, who is also an apprentice, suggested it to him.
“It just sounded like a good and fun opportunity to learn a skill that I’ve always been kind of interested in, and to get some good hard job experience in there too,” said Perez. “So far it’s fulfilled both those areas.”
Perez, who has been busy since he enrolled in college, is working towards a future career in biomedical engineering, but still finds time on the weekends to continue his apprenticeship with the Seaport Foundation.
“It’s been great working here, too, because they give you a lot of opportunities. They’ll help you find places, like, say you can’t work here anymore, they’ll find you other places to work. They’ll help you with school and whatnot. It’s really great working here.”
For any youth in the community that are considering becoming apprentices with the Seaport Foundation, Perez can’t recommend it enough.
“I think it’s very good for the community,” said Perez. “It helps all the youth that are kind of at-risk, just anyone who needs the job experience and help that the foundation provides can come here and it helps the younger people. It gives really anyone a chance, even if they’re not young, they can volunteer here and get some experiences and skills that they wouldn’t get otherwise.”
For more information about the Seaport Foundation, visit http://alexandriaseaport.org/.