Hometown Huddle: A Detroit Veteran’s Day and MLK Day Collaboration

By Emily Ferstle, City Impact Manager

On Veterans Day, The Mission Continues Detroit Platoons were joined by The Detroit Lions, United Way for Southeastern Michigan, Comerica Bank, and Caniff Electric Supply Co. for a day of impact at the Boys & Girls Club of Southeastern Michigan.

Veterans, civilians, community members, and corporate partner employees joined forces to make an impact in the lives of Detroit youth. The Lloyd H. Diehl clubhouse serves 60-100 children and teens daily, and is in continuous need of support to create and maintain a safe, welcoming environment for the youth to gather, learn, and play.

Check out the impact we made for Veterans Day and join us for more during our MLK Day of Service at the clubhouse for Blue Door Blitz!

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Columbus 1st Platoon’s Veterans Day with Hamilton Township High School

By Ian Haynes, City Impact Manager

This event was a new opportunity for the Columbus 1st to help fight food insecurity through the creation of an urban farm learning lab! Through a partnership with Hamilton Township High School and the YMCA of Central Ohio, the platoon was able to rehab an old greenhouse and the surrounding outdoor space at Hoover YMCA Park which is about ½ a mile from the high school. Students and staff from the school joined veterans from The Mission Continues for this impactful day of service.

Kim Tapia, a member of the Columbus 1st Leadership Team stepped up to lead the project. 20 volunteers including nine veterans and six students put in 90 volunteer hours total for our Veterans Day campaign with Hamilton Township High School (HTHS).

Students from Hamilton Township High School join The Mission Continues for a service project

It was an awesome day with good people and a great project for the community. I will definitely do more projects in the future. Being involved with The Mission Continues has really opened my eyes to see that our community needs help and I’m happy to be involved.

Dana Erikson, platoon and community member

Our work with HTHS focused on the rehab of a greenhouse at Hoover YMCA Park. The project was part a new partnership between Hamilton Township High School, the YMCA of Central Ohio and The Mission Continues and was the culmination of several months of discussion and planning between the three organization.

Corey O’Brien, an Army veteran and high school science teacher at HTHS approached The Mission Continues over the summer with the idea of turning a greenhouse into a learning lab for his Environmental Science students. He was searching for a way to provide opportunities for his students learn an employable skill, earn some of their volunteer hours required for graduation and to connect with veterans.

I think the task for last Saturday went very well, and in my opinion this was proven by the before and after pictures. Some of the other pictures show that even despite the cold, we all came together as a team, and had fun doing it.

Chris Ray, veteran

As one of the first Purple Star Schools in the nation, HTHS has a major commitment to students and families connected to our nation’s military and is always looking for ways to connect with veterans. Over a cup of coffee Corey shared his vision with Ian Haynes, a City Impact Manager with The Mission Continues, and asked there might be a way to collaborate.

Hoover YMCA Park, which is about a half mile from the school, happened to have a greenhouse that had fallen into disuse. They offered it to the school on the condition that the school make any repairs needed to get it up and running.

A survey of the space revealed that the structure of the greenhouse was in great shape, but that there was a ton unused space inside and outside that could be tapped for gardening. With a bit of TLC, this would be the perfect space for the 25 students currently interested in urban farming to gain valuable hands on experience. And, with the potential for up to 90 students to be a part of the program, there was space to grow at the park.

This work is important to me as a veteran because like many veterans I still have a strong, intrinsic need to find meaning and purpose in my work. This is part of what attracted me to the military. This work allows me to feel like I am still doing good in the world and giving back to my community.

Katherine Scheutte, veteran, platoon member and Service Leadership Corps member

The Veterans Day project in Columbus was the first step in making this a reality. The project focused on returning the inside of the greenhouse to a clean slate, adding growing capacity inside and outside the greenhouse, purchase of an irrigation system and general grounds maintenance.

Inside the greenhouse, the two garden beds were cleared of all weeds and plants and had leaf compost added to the soil to enrich it over the winter. Additionally, another garden bed was added to the greenhouse to increase the growing capacity.

Finally, an irrigation system was purchased to be installed in the spring. The system, designed to run on a timer, was a major need since student will have limited time on site during the school year.

Outside the greenhouse, we built two garden boxes to go with the one garden box already in place. Further, we cleaned up the space around the greenhouse and added three cubic yards of mulch.

By the project’s end, the new HTHS Learning Lab at Hoover YMCA park totaled more than 550 sq ft of growing space, including 168 sq ft of new space in three new garden beds. Three cubic yards of mulch and two cubic yards of leaf compost had been added and the entire space was cleared out and prepped for growing in the spring!

“What was compelling about this particular service project, helping restore a greenhouse space for Hamilton Township High School, was that there was so much passion behind why the teacher of the school helped launch this partnership. The teacher spoke about using this space to help teach his students to be good people. As he mentioned, often times teachers only focus on academics because this can be easily measured. To hear a teacher talk about his obligation to also help teach students how to be good people by giving back to others was amazing. It was awesome to see a fellow veteran using other veterans to help teach his students about the importance of giving back.”

Katherine Scheutte, veteran, platoon member and Service Leadership Corps member

Here’s a lovely note from Corey O’Brien, who is a veteran and Environmental Science teacher at Hamilton Township High School:

There is no gift greater than that of your time. Freely giving your time to someone to work shows commitment, builds character, and is the American way. We help those in need. It makes me feel a positive energy to help someone, to do something good.

Veterans have helped to fight the war on drugs, to fight the war on terrorism, why not help the fight the war on hunger? We’ve helped others around the world, and now we can help those in our backyards and community.

The project helps serve a greater purpose and is multifaceted:

  1. It will help fight hunger in our community, which is compelling in and of itself, but there are many other positive ripples from this project.
  2. It is a teachable opportunity to demonstrate to younger generations how to grow food, which can lead to and help with self-sustenance.
  3. It builds confidence in the ability to actually grow/produce food.
  4. It allows people to get their hands dirty and promote connections to the Earth and stewardship of the planet.

There is a food insecurity on the south side of Columbus and Operation Southside Thrive helps us grow food specifically to help fight this battle. We are trying to help fulfill a need of those in our area.

I value the ability to contribute and feel meaningful, to make a difference, and promote selflessness through servitude. There were times in my life where I felt invisible, unnoticed, unimportant, and meaningless. They were dark days and they were hard to push through. I lost my focus, lost my fire, lost my way. I struggled with being normal, again. I was feeling isolated, alone, and separated. Being able to help someone else when they needed it is a motivating force. It gave me purpose.

Veterans help other veterans. If it helped me, it may help them, too.

Thanks to our supporters!

We had in kind support from Kurtz Bros Landscaping (donation of leaf compost), Polanko Consulting (speed bump to protect garden hose running across road). Additionally, Kirk Caudill from the Makery Company, a professional photographer, took the photos for us. Finally, we greatly benefited from the free tool rentals from Rebuilding Together Central Ohio.

Overall, we had a great Veterans Day service project with a new mission partner and, given the weather Saturday morning (20ish degrees and wind!), we had a pretty good turnout!

An Inspirational Service Experience in Puerto Rico

By Marvin Cadet, Regional Resource Specialist

My flight landed at 6pm on a Thursday night. I was coming from a very cool New York City climate to a very humid, tropical Puerto Rico. Luckily, a lot of people in Puerto Rico speak English so it wasn’t too much of a challenge to get around at the airport.

My first observation of the island was how dark it was particularly on the highway. Not too many of the streetlights were operational; one of the many effects the island was experiencing in the wake of the Hurricane.

Though the hurricane affected the streetlights; it did not have much of an impact on the food. I was able to grab some of the best tacos I’ve ever had from a local food truck in Carolina, a San Juan neighborhood. A medley of spices and flavors unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.

My reason for visiting the island was to assist the Puerto Rico Service Platoon with a service project they were planning in remembrance of Hurricane Maria. Hurricane Maria is the 10th most intense Hurricane to occur on record. The project would support folks that were affected by the hurricane a year prior in a little town called Humacao.

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Poised for Impact in the South Bronx

By Mohan Sivaloganathan, Northeast Executive Director

You don’t have to be world-famous to make an impact – you just have to dedicate the time, energy, and effort to work with your community from the ground-up and lead by example.

Derrick Clark, Navy Veteran and The Mission Continues Platoon Leader

For generations, our veterans have inspired people to affect positive change. Here in New York – a city that prides itself in coming together to advance the greater good – our veterans are continuing to step up on behalf of children and families.

From promoting healthy lifestyles to developing youth leadership to creating safe recreation spaces, veterans who serve with The Mission Continues are reclaiming a sense of purpose and gaining recognition as one of the city’s most vital levers for social impact.

As we look forward to 2019, we see that we’ve reached a tipping point for our work in New York City. In the coming year, we will activate more veterans than ever and truly position veterans at the forefront of the city’s service movement.

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A Glimpse of What We Accomplished on Veterans Day in 2018

We’d like to share a compilation of just a few of the many service projects veteran and non-veteran volunteers accomplished in honor of Veterans Day. For us, Veterans Day is not about thanking veterans for their past service. Rather, we seek to redefine it as a day when we tell veterans they are STILL assets to their country, and they can serve again in new ways. So instead of saying “Thank you” — we say “We still need you–thank you for your CONTINUED service.”

Check out additional service projects like the one in Orlando!

Of course, our heartfelt thanks to our friends at BAE Systems, Inc., who made these projects possible through their support. We’ve had an incredible impact as a result!

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, where our Philly service platoon members joined our friends at Travis Manion Foundation, Student Veterans of America, Team Red, White & Blue & Team Rubicon to serve alongside President George W. Bush, Mrs. Laura Bush, and folks from the George W. Bush Presidential Center.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

South Hills Platoon (Pittsburgh 3rd Platoon) supports of the food security, literacy and civic engagement of refugee and immigrant population in the South Hills communities of Pittsburgh. This Veterans Day project ensured that the community garden was cleared to borough standards and prepared them to sustain their garden for next year.

Together, members of the Bhutanese refugee community joined with area veterans and other volunteers to cleared the entire garden, with over 50 plots, and built 11 new garden beds.

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How Josue Guerrero-Uribe Continues the Mission

By Josue Guerrero-Uribe, Platoon Leader

Some people are lucky enough to have a superhero. Having one is what inspired me–but serving others, as superheroes do, is what saved me.

Donate $50 today and help The Mission Continues empower more veterans like me.

I spent my early childhood in Mexico, where my father was a doctor and my mother was a nurse. Life was peaceful at first, but the cartels took that away, and we fled to the United States–leaving everything behind in an instant. I went from being a rich kid to living in an industrial ghost town. I felt attacked on all sides, as if everything about me was wrong. My language was wrong. My food was wrong. My clothes were wrong. My skin tone was wrong. Inside the home we were Mexican, but inside my head all I could hear was Be MORE American.

Neighbors vandalized our home, and classmates beat me up. One day as I was being pummeled by bullies, the kicks and blows suddenly fell away. I looked up to see the uniformed Marine Corps recruiter who had sent the bullies packing. In that moment, he was my superhero, and I wanted to be just like him.

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Applying Yourself: Tips for Rocking the Admissions Process

The Mission Continues MLK Day of Service

By Cicely Black, Regional Admissions Specialist

So, you’ve decided it’s time for you to continue the mission by applying for one of our programs like Mass Deployment, Women Veterans Leadership Summit, or the Service Leadership Corps…..nice! We like you already. Now your mission is to make sure we know that continuing the mission without you would be mission impossible (see what I did there) by making it through our admissions process.

So, here are some tips for taking your application from excellent to elite!

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Veterans Day in Atlanta

We hosted our inaugural Commitment To Service Breakfast in Atlanta at Mercedes-Benz Stadium AMG Lounge, with approximately 90 in attendance.  

The venue was wonderful and attendees had the opportunity to tour the stadium and get a glimpse of the Falcons Practice!

John Tien our Board Chair kicked off the event with a welcome; Steve Cannon and our president, Spencer Kympton, had a “coffee side” chat;  we recognized two of our platoon leaders, Kimia and Kareem Flournoy, who shared their personal journey, as well as Joshua Dickerson from Bellwood Boy’s and Girls Club, which was our first community partner in Atlanta.

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