The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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January 14, 2014

Group hoping to raise $300G for ship’s commissioning

JOHNSTOWN — With the start of the new year, the USS Somerset Commissioning Committee has seen an increase in donations, according to the organization’s chief of staff, Michael Kearney.

Funds came in kind of slowly during the holiday season.

But now, the organization, which started soliciting donations in October, is almost halfway toward its goal of raising at least $300,000 before the vessel is commissioned on, March 1 at Penn’s Landing in Philadelphia. The money will be used to help pay for receptions and tokens of appreciation for the crew.

“It’s a very tough climate right now for fundraising, but, given that, I think we’re doing okay,” said Kearney.

The committee hopes to raise $50,000 in Somerset County. Approximately $30,000 has been collected so far.

Somerset Trust Co. has agreed to match the next $10,000 donated locally, so the goal can be reached.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime honor being extended to Somerset County,” said Henry Cook, the company’s CEO and president.

Earlier, Bob Kirst, president of Somerset-based Global/SFC Valve Corp., matched the first $10,000 raised. Other contributions have been made by county residents, businesses and organizations.

“We appreciate all the support from in Somerset County,” said Thomas Metzger, the committee’s chairman.

More than 1,000 people from the local area have requested tickets to the ceremony, according to Somerset County Commissioner John Vatavuk.

The U.S. Navy San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock is named after the county in which United Airlines Flight 93 crashed during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Along with donating money, county residents have been actively involved in other ways. Kirst’s company made valves for the ship.

Valencia McClatchey donated a copy of her photo, “The End of Serenity,” that shows a smoke plume rising above the horizon minutes after the plane crash. Communities paid for signs depicting the names of municipalities and well-known roads, such as Garrett Shortcut and Indian Lake Drive. The signs and McClatchey’s picture will hang inside the ship.

“It’s incredible the number of people that have gotten involved,” said Vatavuk.

Dave Sutor is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/Dave_Sutor.

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