Sailing to the Homeless
People ask, “What do the homeless have to do with sailing?” Williamsburg never developed a shelter for the homeless because officials feared it would become a magnet for homeless from Newport News. “Many communities take a similar approach,” Thomas Fortuna explained while sailing the York River.
“But that ignores the fact they’re still out there, in need of help.” He’s with Columbus House in New Haven, where he’s particularly proud of a bootstrap program. “It runs five days a week, from 9 to 3, shaping up the chronically homeless to overcome their addictions and learn work skills. If you’re late, you’re out.”
Fully 55% attend the sessions religiously, graduate and find jobs, “thanks to generous stores and other employers who are willing to take a chance on their fellow human beings.” What he’s selling is hope. “It’s about having something to do come Monday morning.”
Sailing to Sunset
Gail and Claude Klink of Granville, Ohio, sailed into the sunset on a quiet evening on the York River amid discussion of myriad issues and reflections on life. Now retired as a teacher, Gail mentioned quietly, “I was on the list to go up in the Challenger.”
It seemed like the boat stopped, as if to recall the disaster in January 1986. Gail was third on the teacher list after Christa McAuliffe and Barbara Gordon. “It was bitter cold that day, and I was sick with the flu. I thought they would cancel the flight, but not because of the O rings.”
NASA officials held a somber memorial that was televised nationally. “The wives of Gus Grissom and Ed White were there with us,” Gail said. She referred to the Apollo 1 fire of 1967 that also killed Roger Chafee. “Barbara eventually went into space years later, and I was there to watch it. We cringed, but it worked out fine.”
Much in Common
Two couples who never met before turned out to have much in common as they cruised into the sunset on the York River. Veda May and her beau Avery Allen are respectively a longtime Navy paralegal and Veterans Administration Hospital specialist for spinal cord injuries. Delores Fortuna and her husband Tom are respectively an elementary school teacher and a homeless shelter advocate. Together they comprised more public service than any other crew this season. We talked a lot about misfortune, compassion and hope.
Let’s Go Sailing to the Homeless
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