CASCO ANTIGUO, Panama - Crew members of guided-missile frigate USS Gary (FFG 51) cleaned, prepped and painted a neighborhood Community Center to support the Fundacion Calicanto (Calicanto Foundation) during a recent port visit to Panama, Feb. 10 while deployed to U.S. 4th Fleet.
The day-long project involved the sustained support of nearly 50 Gary Sailors.
"I had a good time at the COMREL (community relations)project helping out those that are less fortunate," said Information Systems Technician 3rd Class Andrew King. "It always feels good doing a good thing for a community in need. I look forward to the next opportunity to help out."
Fundacion Calicanto was established in 1997 when members of the local community joined together to save the historic neighborhood of Casco Antiguo by petitioning the United Nations to make it a World Heritage site. Their efforts were a success, and in 1998 their petition was granted, saving the neighborhood from destruction.
Gary's Command Career Counselor 1st Class Donald Martelli said he was happy to be a part of the cause.
"There was a real sense of pride at the amount of Gary Sailors that volunteered and the level of enthusiasm while we were working; even the guys that couldn't show up talk about it wishing that they could have been there. It gives you a chance to appreciate a port visit on a whole different level, something personal you can take with you," Martelli said.
According to the foundation officials, the mission of Fundacion Calicanto is to safeguard the historic and human heritage of the Casco Antiguo site through social, educational, cultural and conservation programs and actions. It accomplishes this by preparing women and children of this impoverished and violence-stricken neighborhood to value themselves, promote education, and provide them with the tools needed to support their families and cultural traditions.
Gary is homeported in San Diego, and is currently deployed to Central and South America and the Caribbean in support of Operation Martillo and U.S. 4th Fleet's mission, Southern Seas 2012.