Check for $400,000 awarded to Cleveland Coast Guard, but money impact will not be obvious locally

The Coast Guard of Cleveland received a large check for $400,000 that is meant to improve the livelihood of its service members.

The Coast Guard Foundation presented the check in a ceremony at the Great Lakes Science Center in downtown Cleveland Monday evening, which is just one block away from the Cleveland Coast Guard’s station.

Anne Brengle, President of the Coast Guard Foundation, personally handed the check to Rear Admiral Fred Midgette, commander of the Ninth District.

“The Coast Guard has gotten many gifts, across the whole Coast Guard and there's been stuff here before, too,” Midgette said. “This was the first time since I've been in the Great Lakes that we've gotten this amount of money.”

The Ninth District is based in Cleveland, but includes substations in Buffalo, New York; Detroit, Michigan; Duluth, Minnesota; and Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.

It is the Sault Ste. Marie location where the money will go to use, building an indoor recreation facility for the 60 families that live on the base.

“They were ecstatic,” Midgette said. “Coast Guard housing is kind of small. You can have some people over in your house if you want to entertainment. When I'm talking small, I'm talking twelve to fourteen hundred square feet. If you have a family, three or four people in there, pretty soon the house is not big enough to do it.”

Midgette also noted that the forthcoming rec center will pay off during brutal winters.

“So you're in Sault Ste. Marie, and six months out of the year, it's too cold to take the party outside, so it puts a crimp on getting to know your neighbors and socializing,” Midgette said. “What this will allow them to do is give them space that's right out there in their community where people can go and socialize.”

Midgette said that they check they received is one of the largest donations he has seen from the Coast Guard Foundation. But the $400,000 will not cover all the costs required for the new rec center; its building costs of $650,000 are expected to be split with the Coast Guard. When completed, the 3,000-square foot facility will feature a kitchen, gym, activities room, and outdoor deck. They will break ground on it next summer.

Midgette believes the addition of the rec center for the Sault Ste. Marie substation will not only boost morale but help in normal operations.

“There's a lot of people that live in Coast Guard housing, sixty families, and another couple hundred people who work up there,” Midgette said, “but all of our ice breakers - and there's about eight or nine ice breakers - all go through there, and the crews will go through there and it gives them something to do.”

Brengle agrees.

“People understand the isolation and the heavy mission of the Coast Guard and how hard it is on families to move every two years and with limited square footage in their own quarters,” she said. “This allows them to have parties and community meetings and exercise programs, anything that brings them together and improves the quality of life, particularly when facing snow and snowmobile season and it's hard to get around.”

Brengle oversees the Coast Guard Foundation, which Midgette said is critical to help the military organization keep running. The Foundation receives donations from different business and companies, and its board of directors then decides what the money will go toward. Midgette said the Foundation makes possible what limited government funds cannot do.

“So we looked into it and got the okay from headquarters and we've been working away in District 9, and also got donations from people in Florida and Connecticut and Texas, so it's very exciting,” Brengle explained. “It's wonderful. It's very gratifying. This is a particularly big project they did for us. We're trying more and more to focus on big things, at least two a year we can raise money for.”

“All of us are absolutely grateful. Just thank you,” said Midgette.

More information about the Cleveland Coast Guard can be found here. If you would like to help donate to the Coast Guard Foundation, click here.

[Look for Colin McDermott's upcoming web series about the world of the United States Coast Guard Ninth District in Cleveland.]

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