December 21, 2016

As we gathered as an organization and in our teams to discuss our goals for the upcoming year, we also thought it important to take stock of moments in 2016 where we felt like we totally rocked it, so that we may continue to learn and grow. To that end, each member of the Regional Resource team, our amazing project planners, took some time to look back on 2016 and pick out one project that really spoke to them.

Regional Resource Specialists are dedicated to planning and managing their projects, and often collaborate and work alongside Mission Continues volunteers. Creating a meaningful and impactful experience for volunteers, community members, and The Mission Continues is what a RRS is all about.

Here’s a look at what they came up with.

 

Women Veteran’s Leadership Summit, New Orleans

Damion Martin, Central Region

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Damion at Women Veterans Leadership Summit with attendees

Since this was our first ever Women Veteran’s Leadership Summit, I felt some pressure to not mess up. I really enjoyed seeing the excitement, appreciation, and engagement of the women veterans and non-veterans involved as they took complete ownership of their roles in making this summit a success. Everyone wanted to help prove its worth and make it an annual event.

We found a local school (Langston Hughes Academy) as part of the New Orleans FirstLine Schools charter system that partnered with The Edible Schoolyard program to provide healthy relationships with healthy eating in schools and at home.

We were collaborative from the start and worked alongside the AmeriCorps VISTA program that placed teachers in the school to ensure the kids had the encouragement, education, and healthy eating habits to carve out a path to achieve their dreams.
What helped us become successful with this project was getting to know the volunteer force, really taking time to find kick-ass projects, and including students during the prep days.

 

Bravo Orientation 2016, Rainier Beach High School, Seattle

Joshua Arntson, National Events

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Joshua speaking at the Bravo Orientation service project

Rainier Beach Valley is one of the most diverse communities in the country. It is underserved, so having our orientation service project at the high school was really important to the local community and the Seattle 1st Platoon.

Our volunteers had already done a couple projects in the local area but this really helped immerse the platoon in that community. One of the major tasks that the school asked us to look into was revitalizing the front of the school. We were able to dig up all the dead plants, bushes and trees and replace them with new ones. We also brought in several cubic yards of mulch to give it a fresh look and brought in several cubic yards of gravel to refurbish the existing path that was overgrown with weeds and would flood when it rained. It is now handicap accessible as well.  

One of the things that made it a special project was being able to work with Nick Sullivan (Seattle 1st Platoon) and Ryan Mielcarek (South Sound 1st Platoon). Those two are what all Platoon Leaders should strive to be. They really care about what they are doing and will go above and beyond to help others. The success of the service project could not have happened without them. We were able to get all the project task completed and make a significant impact at this most deserving school.  

 

United is Service Campaign, Orting Washington

Teresa Crippen, West region

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Teresa with the Tacoma 1st Platoon

In the beginning of September, I had the opportunity to attend Shawn Durnen’s first project as the Platoon Leader for the Tacoma 1st Platoon in Orting, Washington.

We had meetings with the partners and put together a plan for a successful day for the platoon and volunteers. With about a month to go until the project, we got word that Expedia would like to send 100 volunteers. With this new addition of volunteers, we had to go back to the drawing board for more projects. It was great to see Shawn’s ideas and help him build them out to accommodate the most volunteers and stay within the budget.

Overall, the project at Washington Soldiers Home and Colony was a great learning experience on both sides.  I was able to see the different skill sets of our PLs and identify tools that would be helpful while planning for their future events. Shawn got some insight into the amount of prep and diligence needed when it comes to the planning and execution the details of a project.

The biggest takeaway came at the end of the service day when the platoon was sitting around the fire pit gathering area that was created during that day. After all the volunteers left, the platoon stayed behind and talked. It may have been subtle, but it reinforced the community that is behind the platoon.

So while we were there for the work, which all got done, we were also there to build community. And thanks to Shawn, that happened for the platoon at Washington Soldiers Home.

 

Charlie Orientation 2016, Little Earth, Minneapolis

Jess Peter, Midwest region

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Jess kicking off the Charlie Orientation service project

The Charlie Orientation project at Little Earth really showed me what buy-in and teamwork looked like.

Our hosts at Little Earth of United Tribes were working collectively from the beginning to bring us the voices of the residents and their priorities. This meant that there was a strong willingness to support us during planning, prep, and execution from their staff and teen program. We were all on the same page and executed through the pouring rain to deliver a complete project.

We worked as a team, taking ownership over different areas and improving overall ability to plan and execute. Each of us had ownership to make decisions independently, knowing the overall goals.

 

United in Service Campaign, Ellis Island, New York City

Marvin Cadet, Northeast region

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Marvin at Ellis Island, with platoon volunteers

This project was part of our greater effort of honoring those we lost on September 11th, 2001. The Mission Continues, in partnership with the National Parks Service, hosted a service project revitalizing parts of Ellis Island. Flood waters from Hurricane Sandy covered almost all of Ellis Island, damaging a majority of its infrastructure. Repairs and recovery efforts help restore Ellis Island, but this was the first time a large group of veterans who call New York City and New Jersey home were able to make contributions to that effort.

The platoons filled three 30 yard dumpsters to the brim with old office furniture, refurbished 8 statues, painted the interior of one of the towers in the Ellis Island Immigration Museum and mulched well over 20 trees.

Working with the National Parks Service and supporting their vision for Ellis Island was an honor. This project was particularly meaningful to me after having completed some formal project management training, I really put that learning to use on the job! Our Platoon Leaders and Fellows based here in the city enjoyed leading parts of the project as well.

 

Veterans Day, National Day of Service, DC

Katrina Hill, Southeast region

 

All five DC Platoons came together at the Malcolm X Opportunity Center and Congress Park (two of our operational host sites in Southeast that are across the street from one another) for a great Veterans Day project. We cleaned up existing guarding beds, built adult exercise stations, refurbished picnic tables, fixed up a sad looking set of bleachers, and hauled thousands of pounds of junk, amongst other things.

This project was a particular favorite of mine because it was high impact but relatively low stress. Jackie, our DC 1st Platoon Leader, really pitched in with the planning, and all of our DC PLs stepped up to be team leaders on the project day.

As with all of our projects in the Southeast region, we developed projects that include a wide variety of tasks so that volunteers of all ages and skill levels can meaningfully participate.

In my former life as an AmeriCorps NCCC Team Leader, we talk a lot about the “why behind the what” – essentially connecting what you’re doing to the “bigger picture.” We were fortunate to have Anthony, the site director at Malcolm X, share his vision for the center and really connect those dots. At the end of the day, not only was there a strong visual transformation of the site, our volunteers understood some of the more intangible ways that their labor had had a positive impact.

Finally, we completed a kick ass #mannequin challenge during our Veterans Day project. Still waiting for it to go viral…

 

Report for duty in your community with The Mission Continues. Serve with a Service Platoon at an upcoming service event near you or apply for a fellowship. You can learn more about our programs on our website and stay updated on the latest news and announcements on Facebook and twitter.