March 17, 2017
By Melissa Geiwitz, Community Partner
The Mission Continues recently asked Home Builders Institute (HBI), “How are we doing?” Immediately, we reminisced about the unique and special relationship The Mission Continues has helped forge between our Central Florida veterans and youth. In an effort to bring positive role models into the lives of juvenile justice-involved youth, a program called Project Bridge has teamed the two unlikely pairs, and it has led to meaningful and impactful work for so many.
Since September 2015, HBI and Eckerd Kids Project Bridge have partnered with The Mission Continues Orlando 1st Service Platoon. With this innovative partnership, veterans can continue serving at home while solving specific challenges in their communities. In Orlando, the mission and main focus of the local platoon is working with Project Bridge youth who are at risk of failing in major tasks necessary to assure a productive life.
HBI and Project Bridge have developed meaningful service projects that allow youth to work side-by-side with the platoon to support youth and veterans. Since our partnerships began, we have collaborated on nine services projects, including building planter boxes, fences, picnic tables, a boat dock, a shelter for service dogs, and a horse corral, painting, making repairs to a veteran’s home, landscaping and mulching, and a camping trip.
Daniel Kalagian, Platoon Leader of The Mission ContinuesOrlando 1st Platoon, coordinates every event with the HBI and Eckerd Kids Project Bridge team. He understands the Project Bridge population and strives for the little victories of participation among the young men and women who attend the projects.
With cell phones and other technology available at most teenagers’ fingertips, they are removed from face-to-face interactions. Their attention spans are also much shorter, so the service projects need to be engaging. During the projects, without them even knowing it, the adolescents learn soft skills that are important to daily life, as evidenced by working well with others and having heartfelt conversations shared between the veterans and youth. The Platoon members do not short change the process because they know what it’s like to collaborate, problem-solve, resolve conflict and communicate.
The projects are also critically important to the veterans because “sometimes vets don’t like getting out of their comfort zone and some of us have seen the worst possible stuff, but we won’t let it define us. We hope to make a difference to the kids and have an impact, even if it’s a small one,” said Daniel.
The partnership with The Mission Continues provides Project Bridge students with invaluable experience beyond the classroom. The Platoon members have even awarded the students who have participated in past service projects with a personalized and framed certificate stating, “In sincere appreciation of your repeated selfless service. Your dedication to service brings great credit upon yourself, HBI, Eckerd Kids Project Bridge, and the Orlando community.” Because of these reasons and countless others, HBI presented The Mission Continues Orlando with the Local Community Service Award.
The Mission Continues has supported Project Bridge tremendously and has contributed to empowering a great deal of people to serve. The continued service benefits the communities where we live and work and makes an immense impact. The Mission Continues certainly reports for duty in their communities! We look forward to many more fruitful collaborations in the future.
Melissa Geiwitz is the Community Relations Manager for HBI. For more information about HBI, visit their website.
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.