River Bell Exceeds Expectations

Jan 10, 2011

In December, the inland waterways industry wowed SCI fundraisers with sponsorship dollars surpassing the budget aim for the Seamen's Church Institute's (SCI) River Bell Awards Luncheon, an annual event held in Paducah, KY recognizing contributions of an individual, company, or organization to the inland maritime industry. Income from the awards luncheon, which supports SCI's Ministry on the River, the nation's only full-time pastoral care ministry on the Ohio and Lower Mississippi River systems, soared close to $180K.

Carrie Christensen, SCI's Special Events Coordinator, noted that with the slowed economy, she planned conservatively for 2010 events. "What a surprise!" she said. Christensen knew the inland industry would rally support, but she delighted in "watching them blow the goal out of the water."

SCI River Bell awardee Stephen Little, President & CEO of Crounse Corporation, shed light on why. In an interview before the award luncheon, Little said that even though the industry engages in fierce competition, "We've always taken care of each other." Little described SCI's Ministry on the River as valuable to everyone concerned, and he said river companies saw the program as part of the "historic maritime community."

SCI honored Stephen Little with the River Bell Award in recognition of his significant contributions toward improving in the industry's aging infrastructure. Little's experience navigating Capitol Hill (five years as Counsel to the Merchant Marine and Fisheries Committee of the US House of Representatives) and at Crouse Corporation in Paducah, KY played an important part in developing a plan of action to bring issues to the attention of officials. Read about Inland Waterways Infrastructure and Funding on the American Waterways Operations website here.

SCI awarded Buck Lay the River Legend Award. In his remarks, Lay's son, Keith, spoke of his father's tenacity and integrity. According to Merritt Lane, River Bell Award Luncheon Chairman, SCI labeled Lay a legend because of his "positive impact on the lives and careers of many in this room today."

The Luncheon also recognized the Rev. James R. Wilkinson, SCI's first full-time inland river chaplain. Wilkinson retired earlier this year after 11 years with Ministry on the River, a program he helped build into a network of chaplains and River-Friendly Churches along the inland waterways. Wilkinson worked to make sure that mariners had a resource in communities across the United States.

Members of the inland waterways industry comprise SCI's River Bell Awards Luncheon Committee who select influential figures from within their own community to receive awards. "We are grateful to be a part of this ‘river family,'" said SCI's President & Executive Director, the Rev. David M. Rider, "and to honor its heroes." Financial contributions from inland waterways companies make up the largest corporate donations supporting the work of the Institute, which serves the world's worldwide maritime workforce.