-- More than 100 Sailors aboard USS Makin Island (LHD 8) participated in a community relations project Oct. 8 at the San Francisco Zoo as part of San Francisco Fleet Week (SFFW) 2010.
The Sailors spent the morning rehabilitating animal habitats, immersing themselves in an endeavor that likely saved the zoo upwards of a hundred thousand dollars, said Robert Jenkins, the San Francisco Zoo Vice President for Institutional Advancement.
“It’s a great feeling knowing that the Makin Island will leave a lasting impression on the city of San Francisco,” said Electronics Technician 2nd Class (SW/AW) Justine Pennel. “It makes us being here that much more meaningful.”
The Sailors rehabilitated a lake habitat for injured pelicans, clearing out hundreds of pounds of peat moss from the lake and removing underbrush from around the lakeshore. They also cleaned a hippopotamus enclosure, taking away tree clippings and dead roots.
In addition to saving the zoo money, volunteer efforts serve an even greater purpose, said Deb Howe, San Francisco Zoo Volunteer Coordinator.
"We could not do what we get done here without volunteers,” said Howe. “What [the Sailors and other volunteers] are doing here today make it possible to continue our operation, and in the case of the lake, allow a number of migratory bird species to stay over at the zoo while in migration.”
After the work was done, the Sailors were able to participate in some behind-the-scenes experiences, including feeding a rhinoceros and a close-up with a pair of lions and a Sumatran Tiger. And although it wasn’t all work, the Sailors didn’t lose sight of why they were there.
“I think it is great that we are able to help the San Francisco community,” said Religious Programs Specialist 2nd Class Alice Jones, who coordinated the community relations project. “The city has been a wonderful host and our ability to help is a small way for us to say thank you.”
Makin Island served as the flagship for San Francisco Fleet Week 2010 (SFFW 10), which showcased more than 3,000 Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen and their equipment, along with advanced military technology and capabilities, while highlighting the history these services have with San Francisco.