(Feb. 1, 2019) During the longest government shutdown in United States history, “it takes a village” took on a new meaning after multiple businesses, residents and strangers joined to help those hit the hardest.
Federal employees such as Coast Guard sailors and national park rangers found assistance from within the community, as restaurants offered free meals, food pantries collected donations and good citizens offered services of their own.
Restaurants such as Dough Roller and Rosenfield’s offered free meals to Coast Guard crews and other local furloughed employees and continued to help after the shutdown ended and federal employees waited for the long-delayed payday.
Payment did come for the Ocean City Coast Guard station this Monday as backpay when the station did not receive its paycheck on Tuesday, Jan. 15. The Coast Guard also received its regularly scheduled paycheck on Tuesday.
The Coast Guard is the only branch of the United States military that was not getting paid as a result the partial shutdown. The last check Coast Guard personnel received was in December, after the shutdown began, and then it was by virtue of headquarters being able to shuffle money around to make payroll.
Some businesses, like James A. List Law Office on 57th Street, donated 37 Walmart gift cards ranging from $20-25 last Friday.
“All of us depend on the maritime industry down here,” List said. “I represent a lot of local businesses. We depend on the water, we depend on the Coast Guard. They live in our community and they protect us and our industries. To go without [a] paycheck is a huge sacrifice.”
Master Chief Petty Officer Nathan Beach expressed gratitude for the community effort shown to him and his crew.
“The local community has been really good to us during the shutdown,” Beach said. “Their support ... the outreach, the phone calls, the donations and the people stopping by just to say thank you for your service, that’s the kind of stuff that really helps out. I think it kept the crew here motivated because they saw how much we meant to the local community.”
Aid came in the form of more than just local businesses. The Worcester County Commissioners provided monetary aid to the 37 crew members during its Tuesday, Jan. 22 commissioners meeting, when Commissioner Bud Church moved to allocate $20 for meals for all 37 service members “at least for one meal for them per day.”
Worcester County residents also provided support. Pocomoke resident Cindy Haynie, the wife of a retired Coast Guard officer and with two sons now serving, drove groceries to the Ocean City station.
“I wanted to thank the Coast Guard for their service,” Haynie said. “They take care of us. And I think that it’s an honor for us as a community to step up and share that honor back to them.”
Some items Haynie collecting were pastas, rice, peanut butter, soups, and other nonperishable goods that are easy to cook. She is also collecting formula and diapers for personnel with very young children.
Others, like Ocean Pines resident Bob Jester, a Coast Guard veteran, collected 35 boxes worth of donations from Food Lions in West Ocean City, Ocean Pines, and northern Ocean City and delivered the collections last Tuesday.
“It’s a real shame that [Congress] can’t pay for the Coast Guard for their service,” Jester said.
Beach says the community support brought more than just food and money to his crew … it renewed the crew’s morale.
“A lot of the kids stationed here from different areas were really shocked that the Eastern Shore and Ocean City community came together and everybody was so generous,” Beach said. “Money aside, the morale can be dented at times like what we just went through and I think knowing the community had our back and was willing to give so much and be so thankful for our service was a huge, huge help in keeping the crew here going.”
“Everything that [was] dropped off here was put to good use,” Beach said. “I know that they did seek some assistance in the community with some of the free meals, but I don’t think that it was a situation where everybody was running out every day to lunch to get a free meal. They weren’t taking advantage of it, but they were certainly appreciative and put to good use what we were given.
“It was amazing,” he continued. “It truly, truly was amazing. The Coast Guard is so thankful ... having a community to back us like that means more than words can tell.”