Byline: Catherine French
CHANNEL ISLANDS HARBOR — A ribbon cutting ceremony Jan. 24 that included local dignitaries marked a major expansion to the American Tall Ship Institute’s boat-building program. The ceremony was held at the new, much larger space at Fisherman’s Wharf, on the east side of Channel Islands Harbor.
The institute’s public relations and marketing manager, Donna Reed, thanked the assembled group for coming to the special event, and she outlined new offerings to come.
“In the past two years, our boat-building shop only covered about 700 square feet,” she said. “This meager space could only allow for one boat-building class at a time. In that time, nine boats were built with nearly 80 area youths involved, over the past two years.
“We recognized that there existed a strong demand among area youth for such vocational programs, so I contacted Channel Islands Harbor director Lyn Krieger, to help find a suitable space for the program to expand,” Reed said. “And, here we are.”
Reed, who spent eight years as a radio talk show host, followed by several years in the real estate industry, said she got involved with the American Tall Ship Institute because she wanted to chase a different kind of dream — one where money wasn’t the end goal.
“I decided that what I really wanted to do with my life was to help others,” Reed explained. “When I discovered the Tall Ship Institute, and its founder and director Stephen Taylor, I knew I found my niche in the world.”
The boat-building program is an adjunct to the student training program on the institute’s tall ship Bill of Rights, also located in the harbor. Taylor said he is ecstatic about what this program expansion means to youth in need and the community at large. “I can hardly believe we are here and ready to move forward with larger classes, supporting more youth — and reaching out to the community, as well,” Taylor said.
Reed explained that the boat-building courses are directed toward helping gang-involved teens, underserved youth and young adults, fostering teamwork and developing critical job training skills in a unique and valuable way.
“We are lucky to have two master boat builders with decades of combined experience — Philip Taylor and Doug Sherr — to guide and teach the kids,” Reed said. “The students not only learn the theory of boat building, but the vocational math needed for building a boat, too.
“The math lessons can aid our students in passing a GED (General Educational Development test for high-school-equivalency),” Reed said. “They also learn about the tools they use and their specific purposes, and teamwork is an essential part of the program.”
Reed and Taylor said they are thankful for Krieger’s help in finding available space for the fledgling nonprofit organization among the empty buildings on the harbor’s east side, an area that is in need of redevelopment. Ventura County is charging the organization $500 per month for the use of the space, for up to one year.
“We hope that a year from now, we will be able to continue a lease here or find another space, depending on what happens as far as redevelopment for the Fisherman’s Wharf area goes,” Reed said.
The new workspace represents a major increase in area for the organization — from 700 to 2,500 square feet. With this new work area, Reed is planning a program expansion to reach not only gang, at-risk and underserved youth, but also veterans who are looking for new skills and other members of the community.
“Our goal is to run four boat-building programs simultaneously in this new space,” Reed said. “It’s remarkable to think how much was previously accomplished in a much smaller facility.”
The entire size of the new location is 3,600 square feet, which also allows for expanded office space.
In the last month, the American Tall Ship Institute team remodeled the former Buon Appetito restaurant space into work space to serve four programs operating simultaneously.
“We can now quadruple the number of youth whose lives we can affect and make a positive change in our community,” Reed said. “We have already had a great success story — a past gang member who, after completing the lessons here, passed his GED and is now in college.”
The American Tall Ship Institute has partnered with Ventura County Community Foundation, City Impact, and the Boys and Girls Clubs, just to name a few organizations, helping direct youth at risk and others to the institute, and its sailing and boat-building programs.
“We are always chasing money, getting support from our partners, vying for grants and donations from our generous community,” Reed said. “The expanded boat-building program will rely on these resources, as well as local community members who may partake in these classes.”
The organization held an inaugural Pirate Gala fundraiser March 2 at Channel Islands Maritime Museum, to help pay for the haulout of Bill of Rights for needed annual maintenance.
To volunteer time to the American Tall Ship Institute or to donate, call Reed at (805) 901-0585 or email email@example.com.