Over the past 35-plus years, our captains, crew and Sea Tow members have forged deep-seeded relationships with our friends at the U.S. Coast Guard. Much like our network of captains, the Coast Guard is always there when we need them most and we couldn’t be more thankful for that. As the only branch of the military left unpaid during the recent government shutdown, Coast Guard service members and their families needed help and Sea Tow captains around the country decided it was time to give back. Without hesitation, several local Sea Tow franchises helped rally their local boating communities by collecting donations of food, toiletries, diapers, cleaning products, gift cards and any other items Coast Guard families might need while without a paycheck.
It all started when Heather O’Brien of Sea Tow Fort Myers first heard the news that these servicemen and women weren’t going to be paid during the shutdown since funding comes from the Department of Homeland Security and not the Department of Defense, like their Army, Navy and Marine counterparts.
“When I first heard about these men and women and their families going without pay, I knew I had to do something,” Capt. Heather said. “We’ve developed such a strong relationship with the Coast Guard over the years and they never hesitate to help us when we need it most. It’s only right we return the favor.”
In just a couple weeks, Capt. Heather and her staff at Sea Tow Fort Myers collected thousands of items – from food and toiletries to gift cards totaling well over $25,000. With the help of the U.S. Coast Guard Enlistment Association, Capt. Heather was able to deliver multiple truck loads worth of goods to a donated storefront at a nearby shopping center where Coast Guard families could come visit to privately pick up any items they may need.
“A local Coast Guard veteran donated a storefront for us to keep all the donated goods in,” she said. “We opened it up to the public every Wednesday so that people and businesses could stop by and make donations. Both myself and a local Coast Guard officer have keys – that way we could work with each family individually so that they could come and go as they pleased and pick up goods.”
However, Fort Myers is not the only Sea Tow franchise working hard to help out their Coast Guard brothers and sisters.
Just across the Gulf of Mexico, the crew at Sea Tow South Mississippi coordinated their own donation drive. Capt. Chris Ward worked with local fishing guide, Capt. Ronnie Daniels, to collect more than $12,000 and feed approximately 160 Coast Guard families around Mississippi.
Other franchises, including Sea Tow Manasqaun and Sea Tow Tampa Bay, joined the efforts. By the time the 35-day shutdown ended on January 25, Sea Tow captains around the country helped collect tens of thousands of dollars worth of gift cards and countless food and other household items.
The outpouring support for the group of men and women Sea Tow works with so often has been a humbling experience.
“It’s incredible to see such tremendous support from both our franchisees and the greater boating community as a whole,” said Sea Tow CEO, Capt. Joseph Frohnhoefer III. “We‘re extremely proud of everyone involved. It’s a great time to wear Sea Tow yellow.”