In the Wake of Tragedy, How You Can Help Pittsburgh

On Saturday, October 27, 2018, a horrible act of violence occurred in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, PA. The city and our country continues to process these acts and grieve for our brothers and sisters who have been directly impacted by these horrendous acts.

Through the darkness, there has been some brightness; one of those rays being that all 11 people who were killed, have their funeral costs covered by over $200K raised by the local Islamic community.  

As the city continues grieve, our City Impact Manager Stephanie Grimes is working with the local service platoons and partners to see where our efforts can best support the needs and desires of the Jewish community, residents of Squirrel Hill, and all others affected by this act of hatred.

For Pittsburgh locals, here’s what you can do this weekend

Join The Mission Continues 3rd Platoon as it stands with the Jewish Community. The Jewish community in Pittsburgh is calling for unity, and opening their doors to the entire community this Saturday for Shabbat services. There are services at 9:30 am at Beth Shalom, and 10:30 at Rodef Shalom. Volunteers with The Mission Continues will support both.

On November 3, 8:30 am-12:00 pm we will meet to organize at the Smallman Street Deli, discuss our mission, and form a plan for how best to support the community at each site. We have been asked to be on call to help with presence, but all that wish to attend the services are encouraged to do so. Those who do not will remain outside to increase the presence of allies and to demonstrate the strength of the bonds between the veteran and Jewish community.

Signs of support and love are encouraged, but must be free of any political messaging, and in good taste. Our power is our unity, and our mission is to heal and protect. Please tailor all messages to this goal.

Continue reading “In the Wake of Tragedy, How You Can Help Pittsburgh”

Why I Donated My Birthday to The Mission Continues

We just may have what you didn’t know was missing.

By Sean Tyler, volunteer

One of the biggest challenges in my life was leaving the U.S. Army after over 15 years of service as an enlisted Infantryman and a commissioned Medical Service Corps Officer.

I medically retired in December of 2013, and for lack of better words, I was not prepared. In 2012 I was diagnosed with PTSD and had significant damage to both my hip and back; I received a total hip replacement that same year. My last two years of active duty were full of surgeries, medical, and mental health appointments. The combination of these ailments led to my medical retirement.

To me at the time, being non-deployable was a death sentence for my career, and a PTSD diagnosis was a death sentence for my soul. I felt as if I was broken beyond repair and obliged to fulfill my new moniker as a “dysfunctional veteran.” I dove head first into self-loathing and alcohol abuse to numb my emptiness and despair.

Continue reading “Why I Donated My Birthday to The Mission Continues”

A Boy Scout’s Mission: Hazelwood Food Insecurity and Literacy

July 19, 2018
By Christian Polk, Volunteer

Platoon Leader Patti Gerhauser and Boy Scout Christian Polk

Ever since I joined Boy Scouts, my ultimate goal was to reach the rank of Eagle Scout — the highest rank in Boy Scouts. One of the many requirements for this rank is to complete a service project.

This year, at the age of 16, I was able to become an Eagle Scout by leading a service project in the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Hazelwood in collaboration with The Mission Continues’ Hazelwood Service Platoon.

I was motivated to do it there because of my strong family roots in the community. My grandmother grew up in Hazelwood throughout her childhood and attended Burgwin Elementary School. My father also spent a portion of his childhood in Hazelwood. This community means a lot to me and my family. Continue reading “A Boy Scout’s Mission: Hazelwood Food Insecurity and Literacy”

Teaching My Daughter the Importance of Service

June 17, 2018
By Justin Thomas, Platoon Leader

Although my father has passed, he has always been a great influence on my life and his words of wisdom, ignored in my youth, still resonate with me today. Now at the tender young age of 40, I am finally going to be a father myself and want to pass along my experiences in service to my soon-to-be-born daughter. Continue reading “Teaching My Daughter the Importance of Service”

In Pittsburgh, the Story of How I Made My Veteran Identity Meaningful

March 29, 2018
By Patricia Gerhauser, Platoon Leader

Patricia Gerhauser is a Navy veteran and Mission Continues rockstar. She is not only a fellowship alumna, but is supervising a current fellow, and platoon leader for the Hazelwood Platoon in Pittsburgh, Pa. Patricia was recently selected to attend this year’s Women Veterans Leadership Summit. Read her story to get to know one of our kickass attendees. Continue reading “In Pittsburgh, the Story of How I Made My Veteran Identity Meaningful”

Women Reflect on Leading with #HerMission

March 28, 2018

Her Mission

“I raise up my voice – not so I can shout, but so those without a voice can be heard…we cannot succeed when half of us are held back.” -Malala Yousafzai

Across the country, our women veterans have been raising their voices through service on behalf of children, families, and neighborhoods in need. They’ve helped youth to learn about healthy eating, caregivers to open pathways to economic success, and communities to rally around safe and uplifting public spaces.

The #HerMission campaign is our effort to not only recognize those successes and the incredible women who fuel The Mission Continues, but also to unify and catalyze a diverse group of women veterans who will shape our future.

It began last year in Pittsburgh, where the Hazelwood Platoon created the very first #HerMission project, with over 50 women veterans, family members, staff, and residents of the Hazelwood community helped renovate the library at Center of Life community empowerment organization.

This past weekend, nearly 150 women in Boston, Lowell, Pittsburgh, New York City, Newark, and central Florida came together to collectively raise their voices, and their call to act will reverberate for generations.

Their collective impact was worth over $20,000 dollars of labor. Here are reflections from a few volunteers on what the experience meant to them. Continue reading “Women Reflect on Leading with #HerMission”

Divided We Serve

March 15, 2018
By Lauren DelRicci, Platoon Member

Volunteering with The Mission Continues has exposed me to people that come from all walks of life

We live in a time when our nation is divided along many lines. Political affiliations, religious beliefs, and personal convictions all set people apart. We hold tight to our beliefs and our individuality, pledging allegiance to the causes we deem worthy.

There is nothing wrong with that.

Because I see that this division stems from the passion that American citizens have for the land we call home. Ultimately, we all want the best outcomes for our country; we strive for brotherhood and unity. We are all unique, and no two people are exactly the same.

I believe that’s what makes us strong as a nation.

And yet, among this division, there is an even more powerful force that can draw even the most divided close.

This force is service!

When we shift our focus to serving as a unit, which I’ve learned is The Mission Continues way, something occurs that is hard to put into words. It illuminates the human spirit. Continue reading “Divided We Serve”

A 40 Year Journey for Unity in My Childhood Community

February 27, 2018
By Derrick Clark, Platoon Leadership Team Member


As a child growing up in the inner city of Pittsburgh, I was always made aware of the importance of Black History Month. So when February came around, we students knew there was going to be some cool classroom projects, autobiographies, and pictures surrounding the classroom that month for us to learn more about African American culture and Black History.

We learned about Marcus Garvey, Harriet Tubman, Dr. Martin Luther King, Thurgood Marshall, and a host of other well-known African American leaders. Some of us would even get to dress up and reenact their life stories in plays, skits and musicals.

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Although it is not blatantly obvious, the undertones of segregation and racial discrimination are prevalent throughout Pittsburgh. To get a glimpse of how separated Pittsburgh can be, one would only have to step one foot into my childhood community, Homewood.

Homewood is a predominately African-American neighborhood in Pittsburgh. When I was a young boy in Homewood, the neighborhood was fun and recreational – there were plenty of activities for children to do around the neighborhood – a skating rink, sports programs, and the like. But the effects of poverty, low-income housing, underemployment, and the drug crisis of the 90’s have since crippled the community.

Pittsburgh has invested millions of dollars into infrastructure and community development, but Homewood was left out of the redeveloping plan. The community still provides programs for youth, but they are not well supported anymore — they have less funding, less manpower, and fewer resources.

Crime is still prevalent in the area and many children and residents have little to no one to look up to. A lot of its residents share the sentiment that no one outside Homewood cares about them.

The struggles of the community and its children resonate with me on a personal level. Like many children in the community today, I grew up with no father in the home. I had a single mother who was addicted to drugs, and it seemed at times that no one cared about the harsh realities of poverty-stricken families in less affluent, drug polluted, communities.

All we had was each other, and with the community being almost completely African American, it seemed as if the outside world simply did not want to deal with the issues in Homewood.

And yet, in the face of this adversity Homewood has always been a proud community. Continue reading “A 40 Year Journey for Unity in My Childhood Community”

Veterans and Refugees Build Together in Pittsburgh

October 25, 2017
By Stephanie Grimes, City Impact Manager

The Pittsburgh 3rd Service Platoon is a new group of volunteers that are ready to mobilize Pittsburgh’s veteran population–asking them to help refugees living in the South Hills of Pittsburgh. After months of recruiting, planning and collaboration, the newly-born platoon kicked off with their first service project last Saturday.

I launched the platoon this summer for a more specific reason than that: While Pittsburgh has two service platoons dedicated to the underserved neighborhoods of Hazelwood and Homewood, Pittsburgh has seen an increase in their foreign-born population, many of them refugees. Continue reading “Veterans and Refugees Build Together in Pittsburgh”

#HerMission: Pittsburgh 1st Platoon Pioneers All-Women Service Project

April 14, 2017
By Stephanie Grimes, City Impact Manager

Whatever you did with your Saturday, the Pittsburgh 1st Service Platoon did something you’ll definitely want to hear about. This platoon pioneered a special kind of project on April 8th — one empowering women veterans and civilians.

This platoon tackles neighborhood revitalization in a part of Pittsburgh called Hazelwood, and this project’s objective was to give the library classroom at the Center of Life a makeover. Over 50 women veterans, family members, Center of Life staff, and Hazelwood residents, brought the vision of the Hazelwood’s children to reality.

Center of Life is a community empowerment organization in Hazelwood that offers academic, music and sports programming. They are committed to empowering families to bring economic revitalization to their communities. For this project, women of the Hazelwood community and female staff at Center of Life worked with women of the Pittsburgh 1st Platoon to plan, and execute the #HerMission Library Room Makeover project.

During the project planning stage, local Navy veteran Lauren DelRicci, jumped right in as a project lead. This was her first time serving with The Mission Continues, and she said, “I can already tell, the sense of group accomplishment will motivate me to continue serving.” As for this project’s significance, Lauren said, “An all-female service project shines as a beacon of inspiration for women everywhere, especially female veterans.”

We also welcomed women from Wounded Warrior Project, Team Rubicon and Team Red White and Blue to come out to serve alongside their sisters. Most impactful of all, we gave leadership roles to platoon members who hadn’t yet had the opportunity to step up and show us what they are made of. After trying their hand at leading, several women veterans expressed interest in taking on formal leadership roles within the platoon, and even the possibility of working towards becoming a Platoon Leader.

This project was funded through a generous grant the Center of Life received from The Heinz Endowments. Project activities included making puppets while teaching children how to sew and building a puppet theater and a reading loft. We painted the walls and bookshelves to go with the room’s new theme, “The Sunrise.” We ordered new lighting, organized books and games, upholstered new seating made from milk crates, and put together new furniture from IKEA.

By the end of the day, the platoon had inspired female veterans to join in unity through service at home while showing the children and families of Hazelwood that there are people who care about them and are invested in their success.

 

 

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.