April 17, 2017
Have you ever heard about a group of 75 veterans from across the country gathering in one city to use their leadership and teamwork skills to help revive a community? Probably not. Because it’s only been done once before. After a successful first Mass Deployment, as we call it, The Mission Continues will be deploying again this June! We are coming to Atlanta’s Westside to amplify and reinforce revitalization efforts there. We’re joining forces with a few outstanding community organizations, racing against the clock to complete some ambitious service projects.
Here’s a quick rundown of each of our five projects, where you can join in on the fun. That’s five different ways you can help our team of volunteers in Atlanta!
DAY 1: Mattie Freeland Park
Saturday, June 10th
Volunteers Welcome 8:15am – 5:00pm
In a neighborhood that suffered greatly during and after the crack epidemic of the 80’s with violent crime and blight, Mattie Freeland was a fixture of positivity and love. Ms. Mattie was considered to be a grandmother to all in her community, and was known for having a couch or a meal for anyone in need. While she lived, Ms. Mattie envisioned a peaceful and beautiful gathering place in her neighborhood. After her death in 2008 at age 93, the community rallied to create Mattie Freeland Park.
“Church members, in an effort to honor a recently deceased ‘grandmother of the community’ and longtime New Life Covenant Church member, started the Mattie Freeland Community Garden,” Stephen Causby, English Avenue resident explained, “Ms. Mattie loved to grow things and take care of her neighbors. She gave neighbors the idea for the garden and all that would follow on this little corner.”
Building on the community’s visioning documents for Mattie Freeland Park, our veteran and local volunteers will be bringing many of the neighbors’ park dreams to life. From a cookout area to play equipment and revitalized athletic field, we will help the neighbors to transform their park into a more usable and beautiful space in honor of Ms. Mattie and her legacy.
“As the Mattie Freeland Park vision becomes more of a reality, we are eager to see neighbors own and engage in this space to rebuild bonds of trust and hope,” said Causby. “This vision is about a park, but it’s really much more–it’s about seeing hope restored in a place familiar with despair and need. We want to see children playing, neighbors talking and healthy community being built.”
DAY 2: Truly Living Well
Sunday, June 11th
Volunteers Welcome 8:15am- 5:00pm
Truly Living Well (TLW), a leader in local urban agriculture, engages the community in urban agriculture through education, training and demonstrating urban agriculture as a viable economic opportunity. TLW is strategically located in Atlanta’s Westside, an area with limited access to healthy produce. It’s new location, Collegetown Farm, is placed at a crossroad in the community. TLW’s growing practices are grounded in natural and organic farming. Its founder, Rashid Nuri, says, “The solution is in the soil. We can solve many of our health and societal ills by reconnecting people to healthy soil, the source of our food.”
This will be our largest project in scale, and will include a variety of tasks across the sprawling campus of TLW’s urban farm. Our participants will create an outdoor classroom for the children’s learning garden, a pavilion, a pathway winding up a steep hillside, and capturing more growing space in the garden.
From job creation to healthy living, there are so many ways TLW works to support the community. Given the scope and scale of the project, our work at Collegetown Farm will be ongoing. Our local Atlanta Service Platoons and fellows will help upkeep the outcomes achieved and support the farm in its pursuit of sustainable urban agriculture and helping people to live well.
DAY 3: Atlanta Beltline Westside Trail
Monday, June 12th
Volunteers Welcome 8:15am- 3:00pm
The Atlanta BeltLine is a 22-mile network of multi-use trails that will, when completed in 2030, connect 45 neighborhoods in Atlanta in a loop around the city. The BeltLine includes streetcars and parks, and is built on old railroad corridors that encircle the city.
The BeltLine’s Westside Trail is a 3-mile corridor that runs through historic southwest Atlanta neighborhoods, and will open in late summer, 2017. The trail includes a number of “bump out” green spaces that were part of the old railroad right-of-way, but that the Beltline envisions as gathering places and gateways to the Westside Trail.
“The Atlanta BeltLine relies upon the tireless work of volunteers,” said Paul Morris, President and CEO of Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. “We are deeply appreciative of the service these veterans gave to our country and are honored that they are now giving support to the Atlanta BeltLine program.”
Our participants will be divided into two groups to tackle two separate BeltLine sites during our project day. Both are envisioned as green spaces, and our teams will be working to bring that vision to life through picnic areas, pergolas, landscaping, trail creation, and invasive species removal. To make sure our impact remains, our local Atlanta Service Platoons and fellows will work to maintain the progress achieved throughout the day.
Day 4: English Avenue Campus
Tuesday, June 13th
Volunteers Welcome 8:15am-5:00pm
The Mission Continues has a long-standing partnership with The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Atlanta (TSA BGC) in Bellwood. During OWS, our participants will team up with the young leaders of the BGC’s Keystone Club to transform a vacant lot known as English Avenue Campus into a vibrant space for widespread community use. The land, owned by local councilwoman Mable Thomas, currently has a dilapidated basketball court and several raised planter beds, but little else.
Leisa Smith, Executive Director of TSA BGC spoke about the need for our work, saying that “Many times our children living on the Westside face incredible life adversities. Similar to our veterans, overcoming adversities come from stepping up and stepping out to make a difference,” and with that common thread, “The Mission Continues veterans’ service to our Boys & Girls Club demonstrates a level of commitment to our youth that instills peace and hope for a future.”
Building off of a visioning session with the Keystone Club youth at the TSA BGC, the team has some exciting plans for English Avenue Campus. Our participants will repaint and restore the basketball court, build picnic areas, a stage and outdoor amphitheater, a children’s garden, and other projects to make the space a useful and engaging community gathering area.
“The Mission Continues is giving the English Avenue Campus and the Westside a fresh face,” said Katerina Thomas, Executive Director of the Greater Vine City Opportunities Program, Inc. “With the aid of the veterans and the community, this beautification will show a color view of what the resident sees.”
Greg Bailey, who is on the board for the Greater Vine City Opportunities Program Inc. explains Mable Thomas’s long-term hope for the space, which includes an abandoned school building. They plan on “creating a community center with programs to decrease poverty, increase traditional and complementary medical assistance to community members, provide a safe haven for children via after-school programs, and be a viable alternative for seniors to have optimal day care.”
Day 5: Quest Veterans Village
Wednesday, June 14th
Volunteers Welcome 8:15am – 5:00pm
This is a project about veterans working to support other veterans. Quest Community Development Organization offers permanent supportive housing to special needs homeless and low-income individuals. The Quest communities include a Veterans Village, a 12-unit garden-style apartment building reserved for veterans.
“Quest is unique because of its strong community connection and unwavering compassion towards those we are honored to serve,” said Brad Mitchell, Director of Business Development.
“All of the residents have some form of disability such as a physical impairment, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse or mental illness. Quest Veterans Village offers them an environment for holistic healing in a tranquil place they can call home.”
“Our veterans feel a sense of comradery that strengthens them and supports their goal towards re-establishing self-sufficiency,” said Dana Thompson, Quest case manager. Ultimately, we hope to build on this comradery, and welcome Quest veterans to join the platoon, and even become leadership team members in time.
Currently the Veterans Village sits next to a steep retaining wall that is overgrown and unattractive. The landscaping prevents Quest veteran residents from enjoying the limited outdoor green space that surrounds the Veterans Village. Our participants will be transforming their outdoor space, adding a grill area, installing a rainwater catchment system, and upgrading their veteran memorial. The bigger goal, though, is to involve the Quest veteran residents in the projects, instilling a sense of pride and ownership in the work, and ensuring that it is sustainable.
Feel free to join for all or part of a day.
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.