By David Fleet
Chief Boatswain’s Mate Kyle W. Thomas, of Coast Guard Station Port Huron and Station Small Harbor Beach mission along with more than 100 active service men and women is keep safe the waters of Lake Huron.
“I was stationed in Grand Haven and before that Virginia, “said Thomas, who along with wife, Andrea, have two sons, Logan and Easton, and reside in Port Huron.
From search and rescue to maritime commerce patrol to drug enforcement–each day the waters of the Great Lakes are safe and secure thanks to their efforts.
But recently, Thomas along with more than 800,000 federal workers faced a challenge.
On Dec. 21 President Trump halted a spending deal and sent the government heading toward a holiday shutdown over his demand of $5 billion for a wall on the southwestern border with Mexico. By stopping to sign a stopgap measure to keep the money flowing federal employees were either idled or furloughed. However, on Jan. 25 an agreement was settled that would reopen the government until Feb. 15. Pay for the furlough is returning to federal workers but the needs of area federal workers continues as the threat of a second round of unpaid furloughs loom.
Earlier this month Goodrich resident James Vantine was seeking to help a Lapeer area family members employed at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection – Port Huron Port of Entry.
The Lapeer family were one of thousands in America that depends on federal paychecks that, because of a government shutdown, were delayed.
On Jan. 25, Vantine delivered more than 1,000 pounds of fresh beef along with other food items including pet supplies to Port Huron based Mid-City Nutrition. The food items were collected from the Goodrich and Ortonville community to help those impacted by the shutdown.
Susan Bennett the director of Mid-City Nutrition accepted the beef and has contacts with Federal Government workers not only at the Department of Homeland Security but also the men and women at the nearby U.S. Coast Guard station. Bennett said the supplies would go toward 200 men and women serving at the U.S. Coast Guard station and aboard the USCGC Hollyhock a 225-foot Juniper-class cutter of the United States Coast Guard.
“A pickup truck arrived from the Goodrich area just loaded with food and supplies,” said Bennett. “We appreciate the efforts of the Goodrich and Brandon community. Since the shutdown we’ve had boarder patrol, IRS workers along with the coast guard arrive for assistance. There were grown men with tears in their eyes when the truck arrived from Goodrich. It’s just an amazing outpouring of kindness. Some of the donations can be kept for later in February if a second shutdown happens.”
For many of the federal workers it’s been six weeks since they’ve had a paycheck, added Bennett.
“Many of the workers are behind on bills and are not sure how long it’s going to be before they are paid or if there’s going to be another shutdown.”
Vantine said if need be, another collection would be provided.
“They all were just so excited,” said Vantine, who along with his family delivered the food. “My truck was filled to the top.”
Some of the collection went to the Port Huron Coast Guard station where the Chief Petty Officers Association set up a food pantry for those serving.
“The outpouring from the community was outstanding,” said Thomas. “There was strong support all the way up and down the coast of Michigan. It’s pretty amazing. Honestly, another shutdown is on our minds–but we trust in our leadership and will continue to secure our shores.”