Small Acts of Kindness: The Unseen Volunteers Supporting Seafarers’ Welfare

by Susan Huppert, The MARE Report

Throughout the world, in large centers or just an office space, people are caring for the needs of seafarers. Many see the global workforce personally. Others communicate only by the internet. Some visible and others not as much.

Mona Horner lives in Canada. She walks her dog at 4:30 each morning and is ready to tee off by 7:30 a.m. Her upbeat tone and Irish accent tell a meaningful story of her volunteer work, she describes as a gift.

“I was taught as a child that if you can help someone, then help them,” said Horner.

A woman in the background of a Montreal mission.

For “hours upon hours” Horner sits at her sewing machine making Christmas gifts for seafarers.

Seafarers: the global workforce that supplies 90 percent of the goods we use daily.

The opportunity began when she was asked if she could sew. Her response led to a new Serger sewing machine where she makes a difference in the lives of seafarers from around the world without leaving her home.

In the Port of Montreal, The Ministry to Seafarers, a Christian outreach that visits ships and cares for an unseen people group. Annually with its local partners, it gives Christmas gift bags to every seafarer in their port during the holiday season. Last year, 1,500 bags filled with essentials and treats were given away. One thousand were stitched by Horner.

“Sometimes I set up my sewing machine at the kitchen table, listen to an audio tape and sew all night. It’s nice to know you are doing something meaningful,” she said.

Administrator and Volunteer Coordinator for the ministry, Patricia Sarazen, has seen the dedication and generosity the relatively new volunteer offers.

“She is unbelievable,” said Sarazen. “Her bags are all beautiful and exceptionally made.”

Horner has a talent to sew and a gift for resourcefulness. When asked to supply gift bags for the annual Day of the Seafarer, she found her fabric a bit bland. So she hand-stenciled the 100 bags with the Canadian maple leaf.  

“It’s incredible how the word spreads,” said Sarazen. “It’s like a well-functioning eco-system.”

“I received five large bags of fabric at my door step this week,” said Horner.

“Heather’s father was a seafarer. She donated brand new material at first, but then told her quilting group. Piles of fabric were dropped off. It’s a trickle effect.”

The flow of generosity continues as Chinese students and retired businessmen share in the global Christmas outreach.

“It’s been nuts,” she said. “It is fantastic to see everyone involved.”

Last November, Horner visited a ship and got a glimpse of the people and place where her generosity ends. Or continues.

“In one sense, they are really helping me,” she said.

The welfare of seafarers remains a concern for Stella Evans since she and her husband began visiting seafarers in the Port of Gary, Indiana 40 years ago.

 “We used to go to the port to entertain those on the ships,” she said.

Today, the 81-year-old volunteer provides outreach from her home where she sustains her personal connection by crocheting 500 watch caps annually.

“I have a ball of yarn with me all the time and I can take the time.” she said. “I love doing that at night when I watch T.V.”

Evans has about completed 450 hats for this upcoming Christmas season.

“I can’t always remember, but when I see them, all bagged up, I am amazed,” she said.

The dedication of volunteers in the background is always appreciated by seafarers. Chaplain Marshal Bundren serves the Indiana port among others. He sent Evans a photo of 20 seafarers wearing her watch caps. A couple of them sent $10 for yarn with a message to “keep making those hats.”

There are others who God has impressed to serve seafarers throughout the world. Many without fanfare.

Ute Brinkmann, a German master of violin making has 20 years of experience as a luthier. She served an apprenticeship with the late Gunther Hellwig and gained her journeyman’s experience with Hellwig’s successor. In 1987, she received her master diploma in violin making from the German Guild. Her project received international attention for its workmanship and beauty.

Brinkmann’s heart is also tuned to serving seafarers. After learning about port ministry at Trinity Lutheran Church in New Haven, Conn. she put her hands to another service of excellence: baking cookies.

“The secret of serving seafarers spilled over in my life,” she said.

Brinkman has been baking dozens of cookies for seafarers since 2009. She loves her personal role in the massive world of seafaring.

“It’s not the cookie itself,” said the volunteer, “It’s the fact that seafarers know someone is thinking about them.”

She feels that the more cookies that are baked, the more seafarers are positively impacted. She has no plans to slow down, but rather to inspire others. And she does.

The collection of her recipes will be available in book form at the 2024 North American Maritime Ministry Association’s annual conference in Newark, New Jersey.

Baking cookies for seafarers away from their families has a big impact on me,” said

“Sometime we need to ask what can I do? What am I here for? Serving seafarers gives me purpose,” said Brinkman.

Photo: Seafarers aboard the M/V Solina wear hats knitted by volunteer Stella Evans (photo provided by Chaplain Marshal Bundren)


NAMMA members receive a print copy of The MARE Report, NAMMA’s annual magazines for seafarer’s welfare professionals