Apart from occasional mentions of the America’s Cup superstars and around-the-world record-setters, sailors rarely garner the attention of mainstream media. But the Bay Area’s CBS-TV affiliate and several local radio stations made an exception last month when Captain Richard Gillette received a prestigious Jefferson Award for outstanding community service.
Until very recently, Gillette was the heart and soul of the Berkeley-based nonprofit Pegasus Project, which is focused primarily on educating youth from all social strata about our environment, the Bay and sailing — usually free of charge — aboard the 51-ft Alden ketch Pegasus. He has now formed his own nonprofit, Spirit of the Sea, to expand such efforts, and will be bringing the 64-ft steel sloop Ocean Watch — used in the Around Americas expedition — to the Bay in March as the program’s flagship. (Read more about this in the February edition of Latitude 38.)
The Jefferson Award concept was created in the ’60s by Jackie Kennedy and others with the mission statement: "To recognize, inspire and activate volunteerism and public service in communities, workplaces and schools across America." Regarded as the Nobel Prizes of the public service arena, Jefferson Awards are given on both the national and local level.
"I am very humbled by this award," Gillette wrote to his volunteer crew and supporters. "It really represents the work that we do together as a team/crew."
In Latitude‘s July 2011 tribute to unsung heroes of the Bay Area, volunteer Shana Bagley was quoted as saying, "There is something magical about Richard. He is like an old soul with a connection to the sea and the earth. The world is always brighter after spending time with him."
You can help Gillette jump-start his new nonprofit by helping him win a $10,000 grant from Ikea to take Nancy’s Kids with cancer sailing on the Bay aboard Ocean Watch. Cast your vote from a cell phone only: In the field where you would normally type the recipient’s name, put 62345. In the message field type: LIFE29 (with no spaces). You can vote once each day through January 20, 2012. Let’s do what we can to make January 23rd’s ‘Lectronic headline read "Spirit of the Sea Wins Grant!"