We are current and former “Guardians of Our Way of Life”. We chose paths which put us in harms way, in order to protect and rescue others. We served in various capacities such as the military, national security, fire/EMS, law enforcement, and humanitarian response.
We understand the emotional, physical, and psychological challenges that Guardians face on the job and in the transition from deployments and hostile encounters back to the home-front.
Guardians often struggle with troubling memories, sleeplessness, compassion fatigue, survivor remorse, emotional outbreaks, substance abuse, and ‘intimacy loss’ with loved ones and friends who can seem so far removed and unable to relate their work encounters.
When Guardians return to their homes and communities they often wonder about what to do next and whether ‘normalcy’ and intimacy will ever be possible again.
In 1998 leadership of Agapao Center was transferred to the current Executive Director, Jon Norsworthy, a service-disabled infantry paratrooper who was serving in national security capacities. From 1998 to 2003 Agapao Center was used to care for struggling unwed mothers, people trying to break free from abusive pasts, and/or those searching for sobriety from substance abuse.
On May 7th, 2003 the Executive Director Jon Norsworthy had a vision of an organization called “The Sanctuary International”, a network of individuals and scenic locales providing peer-to-peer restoration venues to “Guardians of Our Way of Life” and their families after combat deployments and/or traumatic encounters in their professions. Former ‘Guardians’ and their families made up the network of care-givers and friends to the current Guardians seeking restoration of their intimacy, souls, and emotional well being. “Guardians of Our Way of Life” are those who chose paths which put them in harms way, in order to protect and rescue others. These Guardians served in various capacities such as the military, national security, fire/EMS, law enforcement and humanitarian response.
After Jon had this vision in 2003, he began building these peer-to-peer Guardian networks immediately in Florida, North Carolina, Virginia and Colorado in proximity to active military bases. Agapao Center also legally changed its name to “The Sanctuary International” (The Sanctuary).
The Sanctuary began to assist the emerging ‘wounded warrior transition’ elements within the US Marine Corps and the US Army and the associated needs throughout their families. The Sanctuary also began engaging with ‘Guardians’ sent to the two national military hospitals in the Washington DC area Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and Bethesda Naval Medical Center.
It was at this location where the very first offsite multi-day get-away took place for the female service disabled service members in treatment at Walter Reed Army and Bethesda Naval medical facilities. This lodge facility operated for a few years until its lease was up and the leadership moved to the Tampa Florida area.
Restoration on the water
Steer Rite Hot Rod Club
You can send checks to our mailing address or make donations online via credit card or PayPal.
We have continual ongoing costs associated with meeting with clientele, food, fuel, supplies, maintenance of the boats and engines, insurance, etc…
Additionally we have three current initiatives we are currently raising money for:
- A wife of a disabled veteran with a special needs child is in need of a vehicle to get her child to treatment and transportation to/from work. We are trying to raise $3000 for either an older low-mileage vehicle or a year of lease payments and insurance.
- We are committed to raising $75,000 for our ‘Restoration on the Water’ program to cover the cost of a new 22 foot Twin Vee twin engine vessel, insurance, fuel, maintenance, and lease of a waterfront boat-lift.
- We are committed to raising $60,000 for our ‘Steer-Rite’ Hot od Club to cover costs of leasing repair garage, insurance initial tool purchase and purchase of a few older vehicles to restore for auction to raise ongoing operational costs.
You can donate using PayPal…
Restoration on the Water
In parallel to the lodge in Virginia, and the various peer-to-peer encounters and gatherings around the country,something else was brewing in a powerful way out on the waters around the Tampa area.
More and more requests were received by our staff and associates in Tampa, for peer-to-peer interaction via fishing and boating venues.
Most of these requests came from those associated with the three commands at MacDill AFB: US Central Command; US Special Operations Command and Special Operations Command Central.
We began getting more and more phone calls from active duty and reserve leaders working within these commands,and the requests went something like this:
Caller (‘C’): “Are you a part of the Sanctuary?”
Sanctuary Associate (‘SA’): “Yes, I am”
C: “I have heard a lot of good things about you guys. You are doing a great job and making a lot of difference. I heard you guys also have boats and like to go fishing. Is that true?”
SA: “Yes some of us do have boats, and we love to go fishing”
C: “Well, I am in leadership on the military base here, and I have someone who needs to go fishing. How can we make that happen?”
SA: “Give me their phone number and we will grab some coffee. We will get that troop out on the water and onto some good fish. Don’t worry we will take care of them. Also there is a very good chance that whatever they are working through, one of us has worked through the same thing successfully. We will make sure to partner them up appropriately.”
That was the only dialogue that took place on the phone or via email.
It allowed concerned leadership and their troops in need of the assistance to have a safe venue to reach out for help without worrying about clinical stigma or who was listening in.
As the numbers of these calls grew; much of the volunteer leadership of The Sanctuary moved to work in Tampa.
We moved to facilitate this growing movement we affectionately called “Restoration
on the Water”. Jon Norsworthy, the founder and Executive Director of ‘The
Sanctuary’ also moved to Tampa from Virginia after accepting an executive level
government appointment into leadership within the Special Operations community
at MacDill AFB. Jon reached out to the Bergen Foundation in California who had
previously sponsored The Sanctuary’s work with combat amputees at Walter Reed
Army and Bethesda Naval hospitals. Jon told the Bergen Foundation about the
growing movement referred to as “Restoration on the Water”. The Bergen
Foundation responded very quickly in late 2009 with a large donation, which we
used for operating expenses and to purchase a used 34ft offshore fishing boat. The
Bergen Foundation blessed us again in early 2011 with another large donation
which we used to purchase a 22ft Bay Boat.
One of the favored events was taking uniformed service members from nearby US
Special Operations Command and US Central Command out for nighttime dock-light
fishing in the bay waters of Tampa and Clearwater. This is a great venue for those
who don’t have a lot of time available for an all day offshore fishing trip. This
nighttime dock-light fishing venue allows the client to have a great peer-to-peer
fishing experience in as little as two hours. Wind and waves are not usually a
concern with this type of inshore fishing and the temperature at night is always
moderate with a gulf breeze blowing in. A lot of issues have been worked through
and peace restored during these serene night fishing encounters. The best thing
about it is there is no ambiance of anything clinical, just two peers discussing similar
challenges and how best to move forward.
Unfortunately, the cost of upkeep with used boats out of warranty is very high, and
running our own offshore fishing vessel was cost prohibitive in terms of costs of
fuel, oil and storage. We sold off the offshore vessel and continued to run the Bay
Boat until 2014. We now have a small 17 foot cat-hull fishing boat but it was built in
1997 and needs several repairs.
For our offshore fishing venues we have partnered with local charter captains,
Angler Armory, and the Wild West Kingfish Tournament Series. Several times
throughout the year local sponsors donate ‘all expenses paid’ offshore all day fishing
trips for Sanctuary clients. During our last sponsored trip in May, 2015 two retired
disabled SEALs, a disabled Army paratrooper, and a recently retired Air Force Chief
Master Sergeant went out on a sponsored trip. The first catch of the day within the
first ten minutes was a 35 pound Black Fin Tuna by the Air Force veteran who had
never caught a fish before in his life. The rest of the guests went on to catch
numerous Grouper, Amberjacks, and Snapper. They had plenty of food to take home
in their coolers. It was also an amazing time of sharing amongst the guests about
the various challenges they have faced and what they are still working through.
Our ideal platform is a new 22 foot Twin Vee cat-hull center console with twin
outboards. This platform would enable us to fish both offshore and inshore venues
and the Cat-hull design prevents the passengers from having hard impacts against
the choppy waves. Many of our clientele are dealing with neck and back issues, so
this would be the ideal platform. It is also small enough so that a water boat-lift
rental would be very affordable. We are currently on a fund-raiser to purchase a
new boat, and have enough donations left over to cover fuel, insurance,
maintenance, supplies and boat-lift rental.
Steer-Rite Hot Rod Club
(military, LE, Fire/EMS, national security, etc.) who wanted a chance to reconnect
with their adolescent children, and/or give back to at-risk children in the their local
communities. The idea is to partner up Guardian parents and one of their children
12-14 years old, and or an at-risk youth from our local community of the same age
with a committed Guardian mentor.
The child will be taught skills pertaining to automobile repair, maintenance and restoration.
They will be learning all aspects of the automobile from the drive train, interior, body work & paint, and electrical. We
would like to eventually build in ASE certification instruction so that the children
will pick up industry recognized credentials to work anywhere in the country. After
at least one year of learning the child can pick out a type of older automobile (1977
Camaro, 1980 280zx, 1986 F150 truck, etc.) that he/she would like to spend a year
restoring. The Sanctuary would then work getting that type of vehicle donated to
the charity. Throughout the year after the vehicle is donated the child would work
with other children, the parents, and mentors restoring the vehicle. Once the vehicle
is completed, that child would get the keys and the title. Think about all the benefits
of this program with the youth of this generation. They learn ‘pride of ownership’,
teamwork, commitment, value of mentoring, others actually care about them,
income earning certifications & life skills, and tangible rewards they can own and
We are in the fund raising phase of this effort trying to secure enough donations for
lease of a repair garage, tools, and insurance. If you are interested in potential
partnering for this cause then reach out to us via ‘Contact Us’ page to ask for more
Stories to inspire. Stories of Hope. Your story …
“The One That Got Away, or Not Quite…”, by Jon Norsworthy We have been blessed with so much success over the past twelve years since The Sanctuary effort kicked off on 5/7/2003. However, occasionally we lose contact with our clientele, and a few rare times contact is lost when things are going really bad in the client’s life. This was certainly the case with “Dillon” (alias used to protect the actual identity of client). My
The Shadow Walkers: Born for Dark Places By. Jon Norsworthy Can one shine light into the light? Does it really matter if it cannot be seen? What then is its purpose? And yet the smallest twicker of a flame can illuminate the darkest of rooms. This twicker is enough to show the faces of souls and shadows that make up who you are, where you've been, and where you are. You will not find, within
The Sanctuary International
ATTN: Jon Norsworthy
8285 Bryan Dairy Road, Suite 125,
Largo, FL 33777
You can use Paypal to make a one time donation, or to schedule monthly donations.