Portsmouth Ready to welcome USS Virginia
Portsmouth will Serve as Host Community for Sub
By Deborah McDermott
Seacoast Sunday, August 22, 2010
[The following article is courtesy of the Seacoast Sunday and Seacoast Online.]
PORTSMOUTH -- When 134 crew members of USS Virginia arrive at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in September for a 14-month stay, they and their families will be treated in grand style by local citizens.
Portsmouth was chosen as the host community for USS Virginia, the first Virginia class submarine ever built and the first to come to the shipyard for an overhaul.
At the City Council Aug. 16 meeting, Councilor Robert Lister was named chairman of the Virginia welcoming committee. Former city councilor Harold Whitehouse, a retired shipyard worker, was also . named to the committee.
"What we want to do is offer all the hospitality, courtesy and warmth the city of Portsmouth can extend to the family and crew of the USS Virginia," said Mayor Tom Ferrini.
Lister said he is honored to chair the committee, which is "on the fast track" as Virginia is arriving sooner than expected. Initially planned for mid-October, Virginia is now arriving in early September.
While the events and activities are still in the planning stages, Lister said he expects them to include a cookout in the fall, a Christmastime holiday event, involvement in the holiday parade and trips to Granite State destinations for children and families.
As former Portsmouth school superintendent, Lister said he was involved whenever a sub came to the yard. The school staff provided support to families who lived in the city, and Lister expects the schools' role will continue with Virginia's arrival. "We want to make sure they're ready to start school," he said.
In the past, said Whitehouse, the welcoming committee reached out to area business-people for donations in support of family activities and to area and state attractions for free or discounted tickets.
The crew also volunteers in the host community as part of their stay. Lister said he will meet with them sometime shortly after their arrival at the shipyard "and see what kind of expertise and interests they have. I imagine they're a pretty diverse group and that can be a real positive thing."
Lister plans to meet with City Hall staff this coming week to firm up committee participation. There are typically seven or more members, and to date only Whitehouse and Lister have been named. Lister said there will be a call for volunteers among community members soon and he'd like to see all sorts of people involved — including business people, yard workers, school staff and perhaps even a high school student.
"We do want to get the message out," he said, making it clear those interested need to be aware they will be expected to work quickly and fairly intensely as a member.
Lister said he's aware of the honor the city of Portsmouth is being afforded as host community for this sub — the first in a new chapter for the yard.
"This is really big," he said. "All those people who decided to save the shipyard? This is why they did it. This is a win-win situation for us."