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South Jersey

Monday, March 19, 2001

Teen has a big job on Big J

To volunteer to restore the USS New Jersey:
Contact the Home Port Alliance at 856-966-1652.
Related links:
  • More than 300 battleship stories from 1939 to present
  • Official USS New Jersey site
    Courier-Post Staff

    Saturday mornings used to mean 14-year-old Candace Brennan could sleep late, getting a break from her 5:50 a. m. wake-ups on school days.

    Not anymore.

    Now she arises early every Saturday and travels from her Winslow home to the Broadway Marine Terminal in Camden, where the battleship USS New Jersey is docked.

    There she serves as the coordinator of youth volunteers from across the region who arrive on Saturdays to help with the battleship restoration project.

    "I like history and science," said Brennan, an honors student and sophomore at Edgewood Regional High School, where she also plays tennis. "History comes easy to me, and here I am learning such interesting things about the ship."

    That interest in the battleship was sparked by her mother, Marinee, an ex-Marine who is the manager of activities at the Home Port Alliance. The Navy chose the nonprofit alliance to transform the battleship into a floating museum on the Camden Waterfront across from Penn's Landing in in Philadelphia. A Sept. 2 opening is scheduled.

    "My mother knows I am a good organizer and suggested I might like this," the teen said.

    Brennan greets everyone with an award-winning smile. In fact, hers was voted Best Smile of all contestants in a Miss Teen New Jersey pageant.

    Until she walked inside the ship, Brennan said, she had no concept of the vessel's size.

    "It's huge," she said. "When you are inside, you get a feel for how many sailors used to live there."

    She said it wasn't until she became involved as a volunteer that she learned the warship was one of the Navy' s most highly decorated and fought in three major wars - World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

    On Saturday, Brennan assisted a Junior ROTC group from a Philadelphia high school and 20 students from the Collingswood Municipal Alliance under the guidance of adult volunteer coordinator Joe Filmeyer. Youth groups of up to 40 children - from Cub Scouts and Brownies to high school science students - volunteer every Saturday.

    "We let the smaller children polish brass and the older students chip old paint and clean rooms," Brennan said. " The adults do the inside painting."

    Chris Steward, a 16-year-old Collingswood High School student, and other volunteers were hauling thousands of feet of 5-inch-diameter mooring line onto the main deck last weekend.

    "It's work, but we're having fun," Steward said as he lifted the heavy line. "The ship is awesome."

    Marinee Brennan said the younger children have different reactions than older students.

    "The young ones are wide-eyed, awed by the size of the ship, while the older ones think the ship is very cool," she said. "They like the armaments and its maze of corridors and rooms."

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