Alpha Class of 2018 Helps Preserve Miami Park Post-Irma

January 29, 2018

Alpha Class 2018 begins their continued service with The Mission Continues in Miami, FL

The Miami 1st Service Platoon welcomed over 100 new fellows and platoon leaders with open arms on Friday, January 26th. The purpose? To convene for a weekend of learning, connecting, and preparing for their new mission.

To show these newcomers what we’re made of, the weekend kicked off on Saturday with a Mission Continues must-have: a service project.

 

New Fellows Get Five Pieces of Advice

Fellowship alumnus Derek Auguste and Fellowship Program Specialist Jim Robbins
Fellowship alumnus Derek Auguste and Fellowship Program Specialist Jim Robbins

Veteran Derek Auguste spoke to the incoming class of fellows, leaving them with five pieces of advice as they begin their journey. Listen to his full speech below.

Continue reading “Alpha Class of 2018 Helps Preserve Miami Park Post-Irma”

Veterans Day: Miami Platoon Working on Hurricane Irma Recovery

November 15, 2017

The Mission Continues in Miami, Everglades National Park
Photo credit: Tim Long
The Mission Continues in Miami, Everglades National Park
Platoon Leader Derek Auguse volunteering at the service project. Photo credit: Tim Long

In honor of Veterans Day, Miami’s 1st Service Platoon returned to Everglades National Park, which sustained damage during Hurricane Irma. While there was much to be done, they focused their efforts where it was needed most.

The park’s 3-in-1 Trail had been rendered unusable due to downed trees and other debris. This half-mile trail is most popular among school groups because it takes them through three different habitats that can be found in the park.

Mission Continues volunteers spent the afternoon clearing the trail of branches and brush — completing in under one day what it would have taken the park much longer to do with fewer people.

This project was apt because the operational focus of the Miami’s 1st Service Platoon is environmental stewardship. To that end, the platoon partners with the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) to help alleviate some of the needs in Everglades National Park and Dry Tortugas National Park.

Jacqueline Crucet of NPCA explains the significance of the weekend’s project and the partnership overall. “Veterans stepped up when we needed them to defend our country, and national parks are there for them when they return, to help provide them solace.”

For this reason, she continues, “connecting our heroes to our shared heritage is really meaningful for our NPCA and National Park Service staff.” 

The Mission Continues in Miami, Everglades National Park
Photo Credit: Tim Long

Jacqueline explains how parks benefit from this relationship. “Parks need maintenance and protection, and our work with The Mission Continues has helped address the nearly 12 billion dollars of deferred maintenance backlog within the National Park Service. When veterans are enjoying their parks in service they form their own individual connection to that public space. Preserving our nation’s parks for tomorrow ties us all together. Together, we make sure parks are in pristine condition for the next generation.”

“I like to call it national parks and service.”

The Mission Continues in Miami, Everglades National Park
Photo Credit: Tim Long
Angel Gual and Secretary Zinke

Another important aspect of protecting the parks is fostering new advocates for them. Matthew Tanner, City Impact Manager for The Mission Continues told us, “We have now had three Miami platoon members fly to Washington, D.C. over the past two years to speak with congress. This year, one of our members met with Secretary Zinke, himself a veteran, to discuss the importance of protecting and preserving our national parks for veterans and for all of us.”

Jacqueline praises The Mission Continues volunteers for speaking, as veterans, about the value of national parks. “Through lending your voice to NPS issues, you’ve certainly helped raise awareness among the veteran community, civilian community, and elected officials of the importance of the national parks to all.”

In January The Mission Continues will be hosting our Alpha Orientation for new fellows and platoon leaders in Miami, where we will gather for a large service project, so stay tuned!

 

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.

Veterans Day: Orlando Platoons Innovate after Hurricane Maria

November 14, 2017
Matthew Tanner, City Impact Manager

The Mission Continues Orlando volunteers

Following the mass destruction in Puerto Rico due to Hurricane Maria, The Mission Continues’ Orlando 1st and 2nd Service Platoons were driven to find a way to make a positive impact.

Home to one of the country’s largest Puerto Rican populations, Orlando has a deep relationship with the island, and has been projected to receive tens of thousands of Puerto Rican over the coming weeks and months who now live without a home or sense of normalcy.

Orlando’s 1st Service Platoon focuses on mentoring and working with youth who have come through the juvenile justice system in partnership with Home Builders Institute/Project Bridge.

The Mission Continues Orlando volunteers

Robert Withers, the Platoon Leader for this platoon, says that he feels connected to this mission because it allows his to address “issues affecting children who are typically the most vulnerable to suffering, and the least able to do anything about it.”

“I see the Orlando 1st reducing the number of incarcerated youth and empowering veterans to serve in new ways,” Robert said.

He explains why he is dedicated to serving others, especially on Veterans Day. “My time as Platoon Leader has reignited a passion for not only selfless service but mentorship and camaraderie.”

“I had an exceptionally difficult transition into civilian life after losing my leg and retiring from the Army. I needed a new direction to re-establish my sense of purpose. I wanted to continue serving my country through service to my community and regain the sense of purpose I felt I had lost.”

The Mission Continues Orlando volunteers

Orlando’s 2nd Service Platoon has been partnering with Second Harvest Food Bank (SHFB) to build food pantries in schools and feeding host partner locations across Orlando, which allows for them to maintain a larger supply of food to provide students, families and community members.  

It wasn’t immediately apparent how we could find a way to maintain our operational focuses while serving these Orlando newcomers until we brought all of our partners to the table and began brainstorming ideas.

When we told SHFB about our desire to support Hurricane Maria victims, they proposed we target the Orange County schools that were going to see the biggest influx of new Puerto Rican students. What came from this collaboration was Operation Veterans Day: Puerto Rico Relief, a unique opportunity to take a huge step forward with directly helping new Puerto Rican students and their families.

Robert explains that the weekend’s project “bridged the gap between the Second Harvest Food Bank and schools with the highest influx of new Puerto Rican children. Many of these schools need their pantry rooms for classes but have more children to feed than ever.”

With space already limited in a majority of public schools, we conceptualized a Mobile Pantry Unit (MPU), that we could build and transport to these schools in need. Each MPU sits on caster wheels which makes it mobile, and it expands into a full food pantry.

Cheyanna Johnson of Second Harvest Food Bank said they are “constantly working with community partners to be innovative in creating access to food resources. The partnership with The Mission Continues has created an innovative approach to reach teens at school.”

This project in particular fulfills a need. Cheyanna explains that “With the minimal space, providing non-educational resources to students is at risk of being eliminated from schools. The mobile pantries provide a solution that works around this issue.”

Once schools receive their MPU, SHFB has committed to ensuring that each remains stocked with food for daily and weekend distribution of food for the students and families dealing with food insecurity.

This is also where Home Builders Institute (HBI) comes into the picture. HBI offers several programs for youth, including developing job skills that prepare youth for careers in the residential construction industry. Hands-on learning and development of building skills is essential to the success of their program.

Melissa Geiwitz of HBI said, “Our focus has been on developing service projects, allowing youth to work side by side with the Platoon. This past Saturday marked our 12th service project together and it was nothing short of amazing!” These projects are important, she said, because “service provides our students with experience beyond the classroom, which we all know is invaluable.”

Once we had developed the concept and blueprint for the Mobile Pantry Unit, this opened up a perfect opportunity for HBI staff to incorporate the builds into their curriculum and recruit over 20 HBI youth to our Operation Veterans Day service project, where we built four MPUs.

The Mission Continues Orlando volunteers

Of course, none of this would be possible without the support of Disney, the lead sponsor for the Orlando 1st Service Platoon. As soon as we shared our idea for how to support Hurricane Maria victims through our MPU’s, Disney immediately wanted to continue their support of our work.

Not only did they bring 25 of their own staff volunteers to the Veterans Day service project, but they also organized and facilitated arts and crafts for all the children of the veterans and volunteers that showed up to help us complete our mission that day.

The Mission Continues Orlando volunteers

Results from Orlando’s Veterans Day Service Project

  • 100 volunteers participated in the project. Among them were The Mission Continues platoon members, HBI youth and staff, Disney staff and volunteers, and T Mobile (our contributing sponsor) volunteers.
  • We met our goal of building four MPUs successfully.
  • Because of the volume of volunteers, we completed additional HBI beautification projects. Projects included building planter boxes, landscaping, and painting.
  • Participating youth enjoyed fun activities with Disney. Volunteers enjoyed catered lunch from Mission BBQ, a DJ, bubble machine…and an ICE CREAM TRUCK!

We hope this innovative model is one that we can continue to produce in Orlando to provide more schools and feeding partners with MPUs.

 

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.

The Start of Long Term Recovery in Houston

October 20, 2017

The Mission Continues service project with veterans

While shoppers all over the country rushed to grab Friday the 13th sales, 90 veterans from all over the country rushed to grab rakes, power tools, and paint brushes to help restore Houston neighborhoods after the damage Hurricane Harvey dealt.

Immediately following the devastation brought by Hurricane Harvey, volunteers with The Mission Continues responded with neighbor-helping-neighbor efforts and rallied together to execute an inspiring 9/11 Day of Service project shortly thereafter.

In the time since then, we have committed to help Houston communities with long-term recovery efforts. Rebuilding in Houston is a mission that will take years to accomplish, but with a little help from Delta Class of 2017, it was off to a great start. Continue reading “The Start of Long Term Recovery in Houston”

We Made an Impact in Houston, and You Can Too

October 12, 2017
By Alex and Celene, Mission Continues Supporters

Following the devastation Houston experienced by Hurricane Harvey, we asked ourselves the question: If we went, would our help make an impact? The answer was yes.

Even though there was only so much the two of us could do, we thought, if the effort was multiplied by many volunteers, the results would be greater. So we traveled to Houston from New York and with the guidance of The Mission Continues, participated in service projects where many people had gathered to volunteer.

We know that it takes all different kinds of support to have a community like this thrive. While we are not fellows, platoon leaders or even military veterans, we still feel the call to serve by contributing what we can. We felt the call to serve in Houston, and for us, the best way to do that was with veterans at the helm. Continue reading “We Made an Impact in Houston, and You Can Too”

Miami 1st Platoon: Hurricane Irma Meets its Match

October 5, 2017
By David Riera, Platoon Member & 2016 Fellow

Volunteers from The Mission Continues in Florida after Hurricane IrmaVolunteers from The Mission Continues in Florida after Hurricane Irma

Irma took three days to show up at my door in Miami. As a member of the Miami 1st Platoon, we responded in the same way the team in Houston did to Hurricane Harvey. The feeling was intense to say the least, but very focused and organized. I felt a surging calmness as I prepared for the worst.

Over three days our team purchased supplies using our own resources, and executed the lockdown of nearly 25 homes (not counting our own). This included everything from hanging steel window shutters, bolting down plywood sheets, and slamming down sandbags.

“While there is no way to measure the number of lives saved by these actions, it is safe to say lives have been saved” said the Miami 1st Platoon Leader, Derek Auguste.   Continue reading “Miami 1st Platoon: Hurricane Irma Meets its Match”

An Update On Our Response to Hurricane Irma

September 28, 2017

After Hurricane Irma struck the southeast, many communities rallied together to help each other.

Our platoons in Miami, Orlando, Tampa and Jacksonville were no exception. They stepped up to help neighbors and community members recover from Hurricane Irma.

In Miami, the platoon mobilized to help the elderly, fellow platoon members, and veterans in the area with cutting downed trees in yards and debris removal. The Platoon is used online group chats and Facebook group to spread the word that members were looking to help out. Our City Impact Manager, Mateo and PLs in Miami and Broward got in contact with United Way – Mission United, Neighbors for Neighbors, Wounded Warrior Project, Team Rubicon, and the Red Cross to assist with additional recovery efforts. Continue reading “An Update On Our Response to Hurricane Irma”

In New York, Veterans Serve at Ellis Island

September 14, 2017

Veterans with The Mission Continues serving at Ellis Island in honor of 9/11

People say that in the days that followed, an overwhelming sense of appreciation and love emanated throughout New York. Last Saturday, for the 16th anniversary of 9/11, we brought that feeling to Ellis Island, where we helped preserve a piece of our nation’s history for future generations.

Ellis Island teaches many of us about our heritage — how many of our ancestors came to this country, and what they overcame to make a better life for themselves and their children. For many, it is an enduring symbol of the American Dream and acceptance.

For us, it’s a way of connecting with past and future generations of immigrants who have helped build the country we fought to defend. Continue reading “In New York, Veterans Serve at Ellis Island”

Project Phoenix Rising: Rebuilding Orlando after Hurricane Matthew

August 17th, 2017
By Robert Withers, Platoon Member

“This community may be ‘at risk’ — but the children are not.. they’re just good kids,” said Anna Dieuveuil, Service Director at the Taft Branch of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida, while volunteers from The Mission Continues Orlando 1st Platoon listened intently. Continue reading “Project Phoenix Rising: Rebuilding Orlando after Hurricane Matthew”