Over the past several weeks, project leadership has been working behind the scenes at the very highest levels of the Navy to identify the most appropriate berthing location for the ship on Aquidneck Island.
We continue to explore all possible Newport County locations. In mid-November, the Assistant Secretary of the Navy and his real estate staff met with three of our board members on this issue. We were gratified to receive official confirmation from the Navy that they would entertain a proposal for a public-private partnership on Navy property, so long as the proposal did not have a negative effect on the Navy’s mission.
As this initiative gains momentum, we expect to announce a significant corporate sponsorship from a major defense contractor before the end of the year.
Also on the financial side, we have enlisted the help of a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee in Washington to shepherd our efforts to renew our Rural Development funding. This is a project the regional Department of Agriculture office would like to fund. Both the towns of Middletown and Portsmouth are well under the 20,000 threshold for eligibility for such funding, but we cannot apply until we can tell them exactly where the ship is going.
We are also focused on developing a fundraising campaign among former CV-67 crewmembers, primarily to guarantee a short-term stream of cash flow to keep us going during the application process.
When we launched the JFK effort, we did not enjoy the benefit of a mature and established ship’s crew association such as the group affiliated with the Saratoga. As a result, one of our biggest challenges has been identifying and reaching out to the 75,000 or so sailors and air crew who served aboard CV-67.
Through the Internet we are now in touch with about 1400 CV-67 veterans. One of our major initiatives has been the development of an Area Representative program, and one of the tasks of the reps will be to reach out to those CV-67 vets who live in their area in an effort to grow the base.
So far 71 USS JFK veterans in some 30 states have volunteered to assist with this task, and eventually to spearhead local fundraising efforts. Packages are being assembled, and will go out in early January!