[The Seaman’s Church Institute] When grabbing a Starbucks this winter, you may see something out of the ordinary in the refrigerated beverage section of select New Jersey stores: iced tea bottles topped with seafarer watch caps. Seafarers’ charity the Seamen’s Church Institute (SCI) aims to raise awareness of the work of international seafarers.
A hidden and frequently disremembered workforce, seafarers bring things like cell phones, blue jeans, cars and most of the ingredients in bottled beverages to this country. In fact, seafarers transport over 90 percent of all imported goods. They spend long periods of time away from home and family (many contracts extend between six and nine months), navigate unpredictable waters and weather and face the threat of pirates, who in 2012 have attacked a reported 278 vessels worldwide (Source: ICC International Maritime Bureau [IMB]).
To draw attention to the work of seafarers, North America’s largest mariners’ service agency, SCI, enlisted the support of 12 Starbucks retail stores close to Port Newark, New Jersey, the East Coast’s largest port. Starbucks management has agreed to dress up Tazo Iced Tea bottles with miniature handknit wooly hats—hats like the ones that keep seafarers warm on journeys across the sea.
The miniature hats come in a variety of shapes and colors, mirroring the uniqueness and diversity of seafarers and their voyages. Volunteers from around the country handcraft each one. To date, more than 175 knitters have contributed 2,173 TEAny Hats.
Inspired by guerrilla yarn bombing projects, SCI and New Jersey Starbucks management hope to use knitted and crocheted hats to reframe the way people look at everyday items. “It will be an unexpected sight,” says Paige Sato, director of SCI’s Christmas at Sea volunteer knitting program, “to see all of those bottles with little hats. We want people to ask, ‘What’s this all about?’ and read the tag and consider how things from overseas actually get here.”
The hats bear a label with the signature of the volunteer knitter along with information about maritime commerce and a website link to learn more about seafarers. “Baby, it’s cold outside,” it begins, “but especially on the ocean this winter.”
“Seafarers make a big difference in the lives of all Americans,” says SCI’s President and Executive Director the Rev. David M. Rider, “and most of the time they work without recognition from a world that depends on them.” This holiday season, Rider and seafarer supporters hope 1,200 miniature wooly hats fill consumers with grateful hearts and informed minds. Look for them on select New Jersey Starbucks store shelves beginning Dec. 15.