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Fire Damages Alexandria Seaport Center
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Fire Damages Alexandria Seaport Center

ASF apprentices aid in rebuilding efforts.

An ASF apprentice is back to work April 10 after the Seaport Center workshop was damaged in a fire on April 3.

An ASF apprentice is back to work April 10 after the Seaport Center workshop was damaged in a fire on April 3. Photo contributed

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An ASF apprentice works on a project at the Seaport Center on April 10. The building was damaged in a fire on April 3.

Apprentices with the Alexandria Seaport Foundation, whose Seaport Center was damaged by a fire on the evening of April 3, are aiding in the process of rebuilding the ASF timber frame structure along the Old Town Waterfront.

The Alexandria Fire Department responded to a call at approximately 10:30 p.m. reporting a fire in the vicinity of Blackwall Hitch Restaurant. Firefighters arrived within minutes to find smoke billowing out of the second floor windows of the ASF building, which serves as a workshop for the apprenticeship program.

ASF Executive Director Kathy Seifert sent an email out within hours to reassure the community that no one was injured in the fire.

“Fortunately, no one was in the workshop and the damage was very localized, thanks to the fire department's quick response to a call from a neighboring restaurant alerting them of smoke,” Seifert said.

The fire was contained to the first floor of the building, doing significant damage to the north west section of the workshop. The cause of the blaze is still under investigation.

“Miraculously untouched was a beautifully handcrafted boat just weeks from completion,” Seifert added. “The response from the community has been heartwarming. We have received calls, emails and overwhelming offers of support. We feel very fortunate that the fire didn’t do more damage. We are in the process of cleaning and rebuilding the affected portions of the Seaport Center and we will be back to 100 percent of our operations as soon as possible.”

According to Seifert, everything was cleared out of the first floor and a professional cleaning service assessed and cleaned the water, fire and smoke damage. The second floor was not impacted by the fire itself but suffered smoke damage, which was also cleaned.

“Most of the tools and equipment on the first floor will have to be replaced,” Seifert said. “We will then begin to rebuild the first floor so as to get our apprentices back in their workspace.”

The ASF is using the fire as a teaching experience for its program apprentices.

“Our apprentices are learning to work through a difficult event, keep their poise and positive attitude, and dig in to the hard work of rebuilding,” Seifert said.

The ASF used the recent Spring2Action initiative to raise awareness about the fire and rebuilding efforts. The organization raised $46,976, seventh among 162 participating nonprofits.

Founded in 1993 by Joe Youcha, the ASF Apprentice Program is a nationally recognized program that provides struggling young adults the career, educational and life skills necessary to secure and maintain employment.

“Through adult mentoring, project-based learning and the craft of wooden boat building, ASF provides a safe haven for young people to grow, gain self-esteem and become thriving, self-sufficient citizens,” said Seifert, who spent 12 years with the foundation as chief fundraiser before becoming Executive Director in July of 2018.

Under Seifert’s leadership, a newly formed Board of Directors led by Helen Morris and a large matching donation received in July, ASF is planning a growth strategy. For the past year, the Foundation has focused on refining all aspects of its Apprentice Program curriculum for improved retention and placement; has retained local marketing firms, Hudson Studios and Ironistic, to recreate its website and update its brand; and is building a fleet of small boats to serve its “on-the-water” boating skills portion of the apprentice curriculum.

“We are also gearing up for our major annual fundraiser, Wine on the Water, to be held on Friday, June 1, on Alexandria’s waterfront,” Seifert added.

ASF is currently working with the city to secure additional space on the water to serve more apprentices and has formed a collaborative with local organizations Tall Ship Providence Foundation, Visit Alexandria, Alexandria Archaeology and Office of Historic Alexandria to heighten maritime heritage awareness along the waterfront.

For more information or to make a donation to the ASF rebuilding efforts, visit www.alexandriaseaport.org.