By Ryo Isobe, FLEACT Yokosuka Public Affairs
YOKOSUKA, Japan (June 11, 2016) ― Ship Repair Facility and Japan Regional Maintenance Center (SRF-JRMC) volunteers and family members supported a local institution for individuals with mental and physical disabilities during a community relations project, June 11, 2016.
U.S. and Japanese employees cleaned and maintained lawns, landscaping and gardens at the institution, named Miura Shiratori-en, where the SRF-JRMC team has offered their time and goodwill for more than 50 years.
“We always appreciate your hard work,” said Shiratori-en Director Yoshiaki Kato, welcoming the volunteers. “I am very happy so many people have gathered here for us. We mowed this lawn that is as big as a field last month, but as you see, the weeds have already grown tall and thick. This time of year the weeds spread rapidly, and we have a hard time keeping them under control.”
SRF-JRMC and Shiratori-en’s partnership began in 1963 when a U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer and three Japanese employees from the command brought gifts to the institution including cakes, ice cream and a stuffed toy duck. Since then, the command has contributed during many occasions such as Shirator-en’s opening day anniversary, holiday parties, playground equipment maintenance, wall painting and grounds beautification.
“Getting out of the base and working for someone always feels good,” said Chief Electronics Technician John Bergman from SRF-JRMC’s Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Collaboration and Intelligence division. The June 11th visit was Bergman’s first time at Shiratori-en, but the experience was far from new.
“There was a similar facility in Sasebo,” said Bergman. “I volunteered there when I was aboard USS Green Bay (LPD 20).”
“When I was in Yokosuka from 2002 to 2005, I visited the Shiratori-en and mowed the grass,” said Chief Electronics Technician Alan Brandenburg from Bergman’s division. “It is good to contribute to the neighboring community.”
“Our field and gardens are for those who can’t go outside the facility to take a walk or enjoy nature,” a Shiratori-en staffer, Miyoko Imaoka, said “but [the field and gardens] are too large for us to maintain. Volunteers from SRF-JRMC are indispensable to keep our facility clean and safe for our residents and patients. We are supported by many volunteers, and we especially want to thank SRF-JRMC.”
This particular community relations event was organized by Electronics Technician 1st Class Jason Smith and Training Technician Hirokazu Sato from the command’s Knowledge Retention Training division for the production department.
“As you know, Shiratori-en is very important to us,” said Smith, emphasizing the importance of volunteerism for the command. “We have a long history together, and we have and will continue to contribute to the institution and the local community.”
The volunteers spent more than two hours mowing, raking and removing outgrown foliage in the gigantic lawn, courtyard and flowerbeds.
“One of the great things about our team here is that nobody needs to be told to do anything,” said SRF-JRMC Deputy Commander Edward Katz when the rakes and shovels were stowed away. “You know what to do to get the job done. Two or three hours of work seem like a little feat, but I hope everyone had a good time. It always feels good to be here.”
Miura Shiratori-en was originally established in 1963 as a prefectural “special care school,” or Nagasawa-gakuen, for children with mental and physical disabilities. Renamed Miura Shiratotri-en in 1983, they began admitting adults as well. In 2011, a designated administrator system was introduced, and an appointed private sector social welfare service foundation took over the managerial responsibilities.