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Warming Center at Seamen’s Church provided for 75 during frigid two-week stretch

Chris Electric

Over an eleven-day period beginning December 27, 2017, Seamen’s Church Institute opened its doors to clients in need as an Overnight Warming Center for ten evenings.

This extended Warming Center is unprecedented in the history of Seamen’s, in the past, they have done no more than 3-4 nights, and not consecutively.  This monumental task was made possible by a fleet of dedicated volunteers, without whom Seamen’s says they would not have been able to offer this life-saving service.

Seamen’s had 42 volunteers participate, and serviced a total of 75 guests, 39 of whom took advantage of staying overnight.  They provided 375 cups of coffee, 225 dinners, 145 breakfasts, 82 free showers and 42 loads of laundry.  They also distributed coats, hats, gloves, clothing, and toiletries.

“We could not have done this without the dedication of our volunteers and the generous support of the community,” Leslie Streuli from Seamen’s Church Institute stated in an email.

Seamen’s Church Institute was formed in 1919 to “provide work for the moral and mental improvement exclusively of all of those who are employed upon or in connection with the sea in any part of the world or upon the inland waters of the United States, including men in the service of the United States…”.

In 1930, the daughters of RI Senator and Mrs. George Wetmore funded the construction of a prominent brick, Georgian-styled building in honor of their parents. This building was designed by Beaux-Arts trained architect Frederick Rhinelander King. In 1984, Seamen’s was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This landmark building is the only original structure remaining on Market Square and is one of the few buildings on the Newport waterfront still being used for its original purposes.

Almost 100 years after its founding, the organization continues to offer services and support to those working on the waterfront, to visiting and local mariners, and to those in need in the community.

Ever adapting to changes in a developing waterfront, SCI’s mission today is “to protect, preserve and enhance the maritime culture of Newport and Narragansett Bay by providing education, hospitality and a safe haven for those who work, live and play on or by the sea.”

The building is open 365 days a year from 7 am to 4 pm and serves approximately 50,000 people annually. For more information, visit https://seamensnewport.org/.

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