By CHRISTOPHER JAHNKE
USS Nimitz — MASS COMMUNICATION SPECIALIST 3RD CLASS
SEABECK — Pine trees surround the metal fencing at Stillpointe Llama Sanctuary while a brisk breeze rustles the branches in rural Seabeck. In the distance, a rooster crows and a sheep meanders on the path leading to the llama pens at the sanctuary.
An old shack on the property, still as sturdy as the day it was built, is patiently waiting to be taken down.
Stillpointe, which cares for neglected, abused and discarded llamas and alpaca for the rest of their lives, is itself in need of some love and care. That’s where volunteers from the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz, now docked at its Bremerton homeport, came to the rescue during a First Class Petty Officer Association (FCPOA) event on April 18.
These Nimitz sailors removed their uniforms and donned hoodies, jeans and boots, then spent the day helping some animals in need.
“The [association] is here with sailors from Nimitz to give back to the community,” said Aviation Electronics Technician 1st Class Charles Gimiro of Dubuque, Iowa.
“We are making the area safer for these llamas and alpacas in order to assist Stillpointe with their rehabilitation effort. The sailors will be picking up branches and debris, tearing down an old shack and putting in fencing for a new llama pen.”
The sailors who traveled to Stillpointe didn’t have an all-work, no-play day. They interacted and learned about the animals residing there.
“I never would’ve thought I would be helping llamas out during my time in the Navy,” said Aviation Electronics Technician Airman Joshua Garlitz of Southgate, Michigan.
“It’s such a great experience being able to give back to the local area. We made a difference for the animals who live here and helped lighten the load on Chela [Grey, president of the sanctuary] and those who work at Stillpointe.”
Organizations like the Nimitz FCPOA can be an effective way for sailors to get involved in community service.
“I was excited to get to work,” Garlitz said. “I saw the llamas and instantly I wanted to pet one.
“The coolest thing is they let you interact with the animals, and I was able to walk a llama to its new pen. That really made it a special day, so I would tell other sailors to get out and volunteer.”
Giving back to the community is one of the ways Nimitz strengthens its ties to the Kitsap County community.
“The work they did today will mean Stillpointe won’t need to rent out the smaller farm and can save $500 a month,” Grey said.
”I’m thankful for the Nimitz sailors for bringing the extra muscle to take care of the more challenging tasks.”
Crew members from Nimitz have been able to get out into the community more often since returning in December from deployment. The FCPOA, in particular, is focused on getting more sailors out and volunteering.
“I think it’s important to get sailors involved with helping the local area,” Gimiro said.
“Our kids go to the same schools, we shop at the same stores and we’re all apart of the community.
“Nimitz is a vital asset to the area, and we will continue with volunteering efforts.”