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Tourism Cares Brings 
300 to L.A. Waterfront

Tourism Cares took its traveling workforce to the West Coast in November when 300 volunteers from the travel industry gathered to provide restoration efforts on the Los Angeles waterfront, including major work on the Battleship Iowa, one of America’s most celebrated World War II battleships.

Volunteers from 25 states and nearly 80 companies gathered November 13-14 in the historic communities of San Pedro and Wilmington, a district of Los Angeles that has played a key role in shipping and commerce for decades.

The Tourism Cares work groups did projects on the Battleship Iowa, the SS Lane Victory, White Point Nature Reserve, the Korean Friendship Bell and the Banning Museum. Known as the “Battleship of Presidents,” the Iowa carried President Franklin Roosevelt to Europe in 1943 for meetings with Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin.

“Not only was our event a success, but I think we really opened the eyes of our volunteers to how much there is to appreciate about San Pedro,” said Jessica Ahern, director of events for Tourism Cares. “The Iowa has only been there two to three years, but it’s drawing new attention to this area. And it tied in well to Veterans Day that week.”

One group of volunteers cleaned and painted the second-level deck of the Iowa, where its mess hall, post office and barber shops were housed, while another addressed beautification projects like clearing weeds from White Point and restoring its native vegetation.

“We at the Battleship Iowa take great pride in being part of the LA waterfront community,” said Jonathan Williams, the ship’s president and CEO. “We have worked tirelessly to create a venue that offers our visitors a memorable experience and celebrates the American spirit.”

The Korean Friendship Bell is housed in a plaza in San Pedro and was given by Korea to the American people in 1976 for the country’s bicentennial. Volunteers cleaned and added a coat of wax to the bell to protect it against the coastal elements of the Pacific. Another group cleaned the stagecoach barn at the 150-year-old Banning home, one of the West Coast’s best examples of Greek Revival architecture.

“The Friendship Bell is beloved by the locals there,” said Ahern. “The volunteers on that site had an absolutely beautiful setting to work in.”

A group of about 75 volunteers stayed an additional day and worked on historic Catalina Island to improve sites, including the Wrigley Memorial and Botanic Garden, Ben Weston Beach and the Ackerman Native Plant Nursery/Seed Bank. Catalina Island rests 22 miles off the coast of Los Angeles and is 88 percent protected by the Catalina Island Conservancy. Catalina has 62 miles of beaches and coves and more than 60 indigenous plant, animal and insect species.

Tourism Cares will host two volunteer projects in 2015. On May 7-8, Tourism Cares for Hallowed Ground takes place in Leesburg, Virginia, and on November 1-2, Tourism Cares for Arizona Icons, which includes the Grand Canyon, will be held in Williams, Arizona.