June 29, 2018
By Regan Turner, West Region Executive Director
The Mission Continues launched our service platoon program in Los Angeles just over four years ago. Since then, we have engaged more than 1,000 local veterans and community members in service with our three service platoons, and have grown our local staff from two remote employees to seven full-time staff in an office in the LA Promise Zone.
It was actually right here in Los Angeles that The Mission Continues piloted our very first “operation,” which has now become our national model for collaboration and community impact.
Thanks to encouragement and introductions made by our friends at Bad Robot and The Wasserman Foundation, we connected with an organization called the Partnership for LA Schools more than three years ago.
The Partnership serves some of LA’s most under-resourced schools in Watts, Boyle Heights and South LA by providing their staff and community with additional resources to improve educational outcomes.
In speaking with the Partnership staff, we realized that they had not just one school in need of renovation work, but an entire portfolio of almost 20 schools that could use the help of The Mission Continues and our veterans.
Since our first project at Stephenson Middle School in 2015, The Mission Continues has performed more than 15 projects at Partnership Schools. We were honored to receive their Community Partner of the Year award in 2016.
Many of those school projects were in Watts, at Markham Middle School, Grape Street Elementary, Gompers Middle School, and 107th Elementary School, among others.
Not only have our veterans been engaged in service here for more than three years, but there has been a strong grassroots community effort in Watts for almost a decade to positively transform the community from within.
Led by the Watts Gang Task Force, community members in Watts meet regularly with public officials, law enforcement, nonprofits, and business partners to effect positive change.
The Mission Continues was introduced to the Watts Gang Task Force late in 2017 and it was at the weekly meetings there that we first heard the phrase “Watts is worth it,” which is a mantra that leaders and advocates in this community live by.
The passion that the residents of this community have for Watts, and a vision for a thriving Watts is both impressive and inspiring. We at The Mission Continues are honored and humbled that the Watts community has embraced our work and trusted us to help be part of the positive change.
This deployment, dubbed Operation Watts Is Worth It, made a huge impact last week, demonstrating our commitment to serving the residents of Watts for years to come.
At the heart of the week’s service projects are 72 veterans who deployed to Los Angeles from as far away as Honolulu and Puerto Rico. These veterans were selected from more than 400 applicants nationwide for the privilege to serve the Watts community.
Our deployed veterans partnered with local veterans, community members, sponsors, and Mission Continues staff to make a tremendous lasting impact in the local community. Our five projects transformed the street corridor of Wilmington/103rd; improved the sports facilities and community spaces of Nickerson Gardens, (the largest public housing development in LA), and transformed the campuses of Jordan High School, 99th Street Elementary School, and Joyner Elementary School.
Through these projects, our deployed and local veterans learned skills and built relationships that they will take back to their communities to make a greater impact through continued service.
For the veterans who deployed to Los Angeles from around the country, thank you for the work you accomplished. For our partners and friends, thank you for your support. We had over 500 volunteers come out from community partners, sponsors, and local platoons, of which, 118 were veterans.
For the Mission Continues staff and local veterans, thank you for all of your hard work to help prepare for this awesome week. And for the Watts community, thank you for embracing us and allowing us to do what veterans do best, which is continue to make a positive impact in the community.
It was a week that we’ll all remember forever. We worked hard, had fun, trusted one another, had respect for the community, and grew from this experience — because Watts is worth it!