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!

Continue reading “Hometown Huddle: A Detroit Veteran’s Day and MLK Day Collaboration”

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!

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.

Continue reading “How Josue Guerrero-Uribe Continues the Mission”

New Program, Service Leadership Corps Kicks Off in Newark

For the launch of our newest program, the Service Leadership Corps, 50+ veterans gathered in Newark, New Jersey to engage in innovative leadership training and community service. The weekend marked the beginning of their commitment as they embarked on our 6-month program to tackle some of our nation’s toughest challenges by partnering with community organizations on a local level.

We’d like to thank our sponsors, Bob Woodruff Foundation, Boeing, and CarMax, for making this program possible.

It was truly an energizing experience to have so many impact-minded veterans gathered in a professional setting. Conversations were productive. Connections were purposeful. Outcomes and goals were concrete.

The weekend was about the same three things that The Mission Continues is all about — connectedness, community impact, and personal growth.

Continue reading “New Program, Service Leadership Corps Kicks Off in Newark”

How Two Rockstar Volunteers are Supporting Hawaii’s Keikis

August 10, 2018
By Lori Respicio, Nonprofit Partner

About a little over 11 months ago, Errol Ingram Jr. reached out to the Hale Pono Clubhouse and expressed an interest in becoming a volunteer. He shared his passion for helping and mentioned that he was volunteering through The Mission Continues. Surprisingly, the mission of The Mission Continues was right along the lines of the Boys & Girls Club movement.

Errol was volunteering five days a week, and our youth, especially our teens built a positive rapport with Errol. He even became Coach Errol to our basketball youth and has since continued to mentor our youth on and off the court.

Hale Pono Boys & Girls Club

The impact he was making became more than noticeable, and one member in particular took to him. One of our male members age ten did not have much social interaction skills, causing him to display certain behaviors. He signed up for our basketball season — and was placed on Errol’s team.

In the beginning, this member expressed his frustration, but with the help our staff and Coach Errol, he stuck it out the whole way through. As time went by, I noticed a change in his behavior. This member displayed a higher level of social skills and was able to express himself in a more positive manner!

Hale Pono Boys & Girls Club
Mission Continues Fellow Errol coaching basketball

After the basketball playoffs and celebrating their championship win, his mother had approached me and said, “he’s amazing.” At first, I thought she was referring to her son, but she clearly pointed out Errol. Continue reading “How Two Rockstar Volunteers are Supporting Hawaii’s Keikis”

How One #HerMission Project Inspired Future Generations

July 27, 2018
By Melissa Maskulka, Platoon Member

My most vivid memories of my grandma are those in which she exemplified engaged citizenship, a can-do attitude and showcased how powerful a woman could be. She was the first in her family to go to college, valedictorian of her high school class, while working in the restaurant her immigrant parents owned after school and on weekends.

For as traditional as she was, she was also unconventional. She didn’t marry until she was nearly 30 years of age – almost rebellious in the 1950s. Her husband, a World War II Army Air Corps vet and firefighter, passed away after less than a decade of marriage.

Left with two small children to care for, my grandmother went back to school to get her master’s degree in education and spent nearly the next 25 years of her life teaching elementary school while pushing two successful young adults to pursue their dreams.

She did this while proving she didn’t need to subscribe to the traditional family structure of the time – husband, wife and 2.5 kids. She fiercely proved her independence and place in society even when others questioned her ability to do so.

Through years as a public school teacher, dedicated volunteer at the Historical Society, Garden Club and Ronald McDonald House, and her consistent involvement in local politics, it was easy to have a commitment to service ingrained in my lifestyle. I had seen it consistently for 33 year of my life.

We lost her one year ago, after she quietly made a profound difference for 96 years on this earth. It wasn’t until after I had finished cleaning up from Baltimore’s first #HerMission project on May 20th that I realized it had been a year since she passed. Exactly one year since her memorial service. Continue reading “How One #HerMission Project Inspired Future Generations”

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”

“A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.”

July 5, 2018
Shannon Thompson, Platoon Leadership Team

There’s this saying my father, a US Navy veteran, said to me as a child: “A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.” I live by this saying. It’s what motivated me to enlist in the military at the age of 17 to earn a college education, and it’s what inspired me to see what else I was capable of after completing 12 years as an airman.

It’s what inspired me to serve again with The Mission Continues.

My transition into civilian life catapulted me into a world that didn’t understand my military career. My new civilian job didn’t challenge me at all, and I didn’t have anything outside of my routine. It all felt so mundane.

I knew something was missing. I knew I could do more, be more, and offer more to others. I needed to get out of my comfort zone again and grow; The Mission Continues and volunteering gave me the opportunity to do just that. Continue reading ““A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.””

Broward County Veteran Gets Youth Excited About the American Flag

July 4, 2018

Angual Gual with the Broward County 1st Service Platoon, The Mission Continues

While many Americans are aware that there is a “proper” way to raise, fold and store the American flag, not many actually know the rules by heart. Air Force veteran Angel Gual is one exception. Recently, Angel noticed that the Boys & Girls Club where he volunteered had an old flag pole — with no flag. Just in time for Independence Day, Angel helped the Club obtain a flag, but he just didn’t stop there.

Motivated by his love for the American flag and his desire to share it with the youth at his local Boys & Girls Club, the Nan Knox Club, it was important for Angel to teach them about the flag’s history and significance. And so began Operation Raise the Flag.

Angual Gual with the Broward County 1st Service Platoon, The Mission Continues
Angel Gual with the Broward County 1st Service Platoon, The Mission Continues
Angel Gual with the Broward County 1st Service Platoon, The Mission Continues
Raising the flag with Angel Gual, platoon leader of the Broward County 1st Service Platoon, The Mission Continues.

Angel worked tirelessly to secure a flag donation and coordinated with the fire department to install it. He then held a workshop explaining how to raise, lower, and fold it properly, and organized an art project where veterans from the Broward County 1st Service Platoon in Florida joined youth to paint the American flag on their hands.

“I taught them that the flag represents all of us as Americans. That men and women from all walks of life and cities wake up every day under this flag to protect their rights,” said Angel.

“It meant so much to see how truly excited the kids were at the opportunity to learn about the flag and how to handle it and what it means. I could see how gently they held the flag with the sole purpose of not letting it fall out of their hands.”

City Impact Manager Matthew “Mateo” Tanner for The Mission Continues explains, “The Nan Knox Club, where Operation Raise the Flag took place, is located in a historically black community known as the Sistrunk Boulevard. This small community faces the daily challenges of extreme poverty and lack of local businesses and resources for residents.”

Angel Gual with the Broward County 1st Service Platoon, The Mission Continues
The art project held at the Nan Knox Club. Pictured is City Impact Manager Mateo Tanner with the Broward County 1st Service Platoon, The Mission Continues.
Angel Gual with the Broward County 1st Service Platoon, The Mission Continues
Veterans volunteering with the Broward County 1st Service Platoon, The Mission Continues at Operation Raise the Flag.

Angel’s commitment to youth goes way back. Growing up, Angel regularly volunteered with the Boys & Girls Club in his hometown of New Jersey. It’s even where he landed his first job at the age of 16, and maintained good relationships with the youth and their families over the years. “I helped take care of and mentor younger inner-city kids. The staff there helped mold me into the man I am today.”

The reason Angel returned to volunteering after 20 years of military service is because without it, “I felt lost and empty. For several years I searched for a new mission.”

Angel Gual with the Broward County 1st Service Platoon, The Mission Continues
Having fun at Operation Raise the Flag’s art project. Pictured are Angel Gual and Mateo Tanner with the Broward County 1st Service Platoon, The Mission Continues

That new mission came to him when he found The Mission Continues, a volunteer organization for veterans looking to help under-resourced communities. When he joined The Mission Continues’ Broward County 1st Service Platoon as its platoon leader, “I felt complete again.”

Angel Gual with the Broward County 1st Service Platoon, The Mission Continues
A young girl showing her American flag hand at Broward County 1st Service Platoon’s art project.

As its platoon leader, Angel collaborated with Mateo to build a relationship with The Boys & Girls Club, advocating for it to become the platoon’s operational partner. This meant that the platoon would work primarily with and through The Boys & Girls Club for the benefit of the community.

For Angel, it’s all about coming full circle. “For me, returning to help the Boy’s and Girl’s Clubs after all these years feels like I’m coming back home and doing what I love.”

To volunteer alongside veterans like Angel, sign up for the Broward County 1st Service Platoon’s next project! You don’t have to be a veteran to volunteer with us – non-veterans are most welcome too.

Contributing Sponsors of the Broward 1st Service Platoon are All Within My Hands and The Henry & Ruth Blaustein Rosenberg Foundation. We thank them for their support, which makes stories — and impact — like this possible.

The Path to Transforming Veterans and Dallas Public Schools

April 6, 2017

Finding That Connection

“I felt for the first time like we were on the same page while volunteering for the service project,” said Nissa Salas, a Mission Continues volunteer in Dallas.

Nissa met her husband Mark Salas after he had separated from the U.S. Marine Corps. Nissa noticed Mark had a hard time relating to her and to other civilians. “He had only one or two friends, and did not trust anyone. His habits were very much military-style and he was shut down from any social activity,” she said.

At the recommendation of their counselor, Nissa and Mark tried volunteer service with The Mission Continues.

Nissa describes their first project. “Our first assignment was painting a computer lab at the Interfaith Housing building, when my husband had just experienced knee surgery. We participated while he was on crutches, and my husband had a smile on his face the entire time.” Continue reading “The Path to Transforming Veterans and Dallas Public Schools”