Stranded in Montreal, U.S. Navy ship crew lend a helping hand

About 24 crew members of the USS Little Rock spent a few hours of their impromptu visit to Montreal in Saint-Henri, packing grocery bags and sorting fruits, vegetables and clothing donations at the Welcome Hall Mission’s market.

Crew members of the USS Little Rock spent Friday morning at Welcome Hall Mission in Saint-Henri

A crew member of the U.S. Navy ship USS Little Rock bags food at the Welcome Hall Mission market in Saint-Henri. The crew is stuck in Montreal due to ice buildup in the St. Lawrence River. (CBC)

We can only guess what the crew members of U.S. Navy USS Little Rock have been doing with their down time for the past few months.

Their ship, trapped by ice in the St. Lawrence River, has been moored near the Old Port since Christmas Eve.

The members of the LCS 109 Warhawgs have been using the stopover to focus on mission training and certification, and the sailors have been able to explore the city outside their working hours.

What could they possibly be getting up to in a city like Montreal? Well, Friday morning, about 24 crew members spent a few hours of their impromptu visit in Saint-Henri, packing grocery bags and sorting fruits, vegetables and clothing donations at the Welcome Hall Mission's market.

"I'm hoping it's inspiring for them," said Nancy Dossous, donor relations advisor at the Welcome Hall Mission.

"One of the sailors mentioned, he saw the [market], he said, 'Wow, you guys do all of this for free? We don't have anything like this in America.'"

Nancy Dossous, left, chats with members of the LCS 109 Warhawgs as they package bread in the Welcome Hall Mission market's warehouse. (Louis-Marie Philidor/CBC)

The sailors weren't authorized to speak to the media, and for the most part, they respected that order. Some, however, offered a few basic observations.

They like the city. They also think it's cold.

One expressed incredulity at the fact that the temperature was in the minus when they arrived. Remember that December cold snap? So do they, especially since they were on their way to Florida when the ship got stuck.

Dossous said when she heard about the crew's misfortune, she decided to reach out and see if they wanted to lend a helping hand.
In January, sailors aboard U.S. Navy Ship USS Little Rock were busy shovelling the deck after some snowfall and freezing rain. They've been stranded since December. (Verity Stevenson/CBC)

She has a connection with the navy — her father was served in the U.S. Navy, and she says sailors occupy a "special place" in her heart.

The mission feeds 3,000 people a week, and she said logistics are key to their operation.

"At times to feed that many people, everything that goes into it that distribution, you feel like you need a small army. So we have the navy," she said, smiling.

The ship and its crew are here until at least mid-March.