By Ryo Isobe, FLEACT Yokosuka Public Affairs
YOKOSUKA,Japan — Volunteers from the Ship Repair Facility and Japan Reginal Maintenance Center (SRF-JRMC) participated in the Miura Shiratori-en Opening Day Festival, Oct. 10.
Miura Shiratori-en is an institution for the mentally and physically challenged. Originally established as Nagasawa Gakuen in 1958, it was administered by Kanagawa prefecture until 2011. Under a designated administrator system, it is now operated by the Social Welfare Service, Seiwakai.
“Without various contributions from many considerate people,” said Shiratori-en Director Kazushi Asai in his opening remarks to the guests and visitors. “We could not have stayed open for this long. I really appreciate your support and encouragement.”
Among the distinguished guests at the festival’s opening ceremony were SRF-JRMC Commanding Officer Capt. Garrett Farman and Deputy Commander Capt. Edward Katz.
“Shiratori-en is a wonderful organization, run by loving and caring people,” said Farman at the ceremony. “Your work is extremely important. We appreciate and value what you do here. SRF-JRMC is honored to be a small part of your important mission.”
“For over 50 years,” continued Farman, “we have maintained and grown this wonderful relationship. Our visit today once again gives us an opportunity to demonstrate the true meaning of friendship between our two countries.”
The SRF volunteers spent the prior weekend mowing and preparing the grounds for this event. They also manned a hotdog booth, which prepared and sold more than 400 hotdogs for its visitors.
“I like to spend time with my Japanese neighbors,” said Electronics Technician 1st Class Jason Smith. “It also gives me joy contributing to our community.” Smith organized the hotdog booth and SRF volunteer recruitment.
“We all had a very enjoyable time this year at the Shiratori-en annual festival,” said Engineering and Planning Officer and frequent volunteer Cmdr. Assunta Lopez. “There were so many happy faces, enjoying our hot dogs and buying the SRF ball caps. We enjoyed the music and performances, and the many different types of food and crafts. Everyone was so helpful and supportive. We are very fortunate to be a part of this celebration, and we look forward to returning next year.”
The hot dog stand turned out to be a big winner for the Shiratori-en residents and their families and guests.
“Setting up a hotdog stand like this is a good opportunity for socializing with the Japanese,” said Navy Diver 1st Class Alfred Pintor. “We can actually speak to them in person!”
Additionally, this event was thoroughly enjoyed by first-time volunteer and Production Specialist Mamoru Shigematsu.
“I am interested in SRF volunteer work,” said Shigematsu. “I also enjoy getting to know the SRF people.”
This was the 52nd anniversary of SRF’s involvement with Shiratori-en. Visitors enjoyed music from local school bands and ate food prepared by other local supporters. Edibles varied from curry to yakisoba and ice cream to popcorn. Other booths sold miscellaneous items, including hand-made accessories and pots.
All proceeds from the event will go toward the annual Shiratori-en Christmas party, sponsored by SRF-JRMC.