Veterans Day at a Glance

December 1, 2017

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: 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.

A New Take on Veterans Day

November 16, 2016

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Veterans Day weekend was a welcomed long weekend for many, but for veterans at The Mission Continues, it was an opportunity to serve with greater impact. Veterans Day is typically a holiday to reflect and honor those who have selflessly given their service. As we look forward, we recognize it’s also an opportunity to engage with our youth and this nation’s future generations in their potential for service.

In cities across the country, we gathered together to do service projects large and small, with other veterans, partner organizations, and civilians. Many of our projects were designed to help youth and create lasting change, as we never lose sight of our vision to inspire future generations to serve.

With over 40 cities reporting for duty, we can’t share every bit of awesomeness with you, but here’s a sampling of the kick ass projects our platoons accomplished to help today’s youth. Continue reading “A New Take on Veterans Day”

New York Platoons Celebrate Veterans Day 2014

November 13, 2014

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The Mission Continues had the honor this Veterans Day to march in America’s Parade alongside members of the New York State Department of Veterans Affairs and the National Guard.

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The Bronx Service Platoon kicked off the morning with a neighborhood beautification project. In just three hours, veterans and community volunteers prepared a garden for the winter, created mosaics, enhanced over 20 tree pits, and removed and relocated over 2.5 tons of stone.

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Meanwhile, 1st Platoon New York joined thousands of veterans in the annual Veterans Day Parade.

“I’m delighted to see that there are organizations like The Mission Continues that really provide a path and opportunity for veterans, especially this newer generation of veterans to really giveback to our communities,” said Jamal Othman, deputy director at the New York State Department of Veterans Affairs. “As veterans we joined the military because we wanted to give back to something larger than ourselves.”

NYC Parade 1

 

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Veterans Day has come and gone. The parade and the project served as an opportunity to inform New York City as well as the rest of the country that this generation of veterans is leaving the military and finding new ways to serve. It’s vital that the nation understands this all year round, and not just on November 11 every year. Our commitment and service is ongoing.