by Susan Huppert, NAMMA
Visions of growth and a strong will can spur real development. That’s the case in a small Texas port northeast of Corpus Christi. At Point Comfort, ship visitor Rhonda Cummins began visiting international crews who docked there about four years ago. She had a vision for more.
“My goal is to create something that will be as self-sustaining as possible,” she said then. Cummins defined the development as a carefully thought out and tailored solution to meet the needs of international seafarers at the Point Comfort port. What she saw in her mind is now reality.
“I am working toward the vision and it is a process,” said the relatively new worker in the ministry to seafarers.
Gleaning from other centers and chaplains helped the Episcopalian ship visitor develop a model that will work in the port she serves. During a brief time span, Cummins has developed a board of directors, established a 501(c)(3) non-profit status and rustled support while supporting seafarers through a global pandemic and a holiday season.
“Last year we gave away 1,066 Christmas gifts,” she said. “We couldn’t keep working out of our homes. We needed a dedicated space near the port to operate from and to provide for the seafarers.”
On average, 23 ships visit Point Comfort monthly. The addition of a physical building enables more seafarers’ access to support than by ship visiting alone.
Cummins is not deterred by a lack of funds as she continues to share her cause.
Thanks to support from the International Transport Workers’ Federation, a local family-run foundation, and business partners, including Formosa Plastics Corporation, two bright blue structures are now in place within port security that will serve as ministry headquarters and hospitality to all seafarers.
At the direction of Chairman Y. C. Wang, Formosa Plastics Corporation, Texas established trusts in the 1990s to enable local communities to apply for grants for their charitable organizations. Rhonda Cummins was a recipient of a Religious Trust grant to purchase religious books to hand out to seafarers.
Amy Blanchett, Senior Communications Representative for Formosa Plastics Corporation, Texas, wrote: “As a coastal town with a port, we consider seafarers as part of our local community. They provide a great service to our company by importing and exporting our products, equipment and other needed materials. We recognize they have traveled a great distance and have spent time away from friends and family to do their jobs so our company does feel it is important that they feel welcome and have support to ensure their wellbeing.”
The two adjoining structures create 1,024 square feet of small office and hospitality center, each with an outdoor porch. The hospitality center provides space to relax, play pool, access Wi-Fi and a chapel.
“This is a big thing for us,” said the Calhoun Port Authority Director Charles Hausmann. “We have worked with them to get a building for the seafarers to have their needs met.”
The port donated a quarter-acre area of land near the docks and negotiated a very generous lease agreement for the ministry.
“It is going to be a real step-change for us and I am super excitied that the port and our supporters are willing to work with us. To see something come to fruition is exciting and a little scary,” said Cummins. “I am very encouraged that we are on the right path. It’s going to be good.”
Learn more and find out how you can support here: https://www.ptcomfortsc.org/