A 40 Year Journey for Unity in My Childhood Community

February 27, 2018
By Derrick Clark, Platoon Leadership Team Member


As a child growing up in the inner city of Pittsburgh, I was always made aware of the importance of Black History Month. So when February came around, we students knew there was going to be some cool classroom projects, autobiographies, and pictures surrounding the classroom that month for us to learn more about African American culture and Black History.

We learned about Marcus Garvey, Harriet Tubman, Dr. Martin Luther King, Thurgood Marshall, and a host of other well-known African American leaders. Some of us would even get to dress up and reenact their life stories in plays, skits and musicals.

~~~

Although it is not blatantly obvious, the undertones of segregation and racial discrimination are prevalent throughout Pittsburgh. To get a glimpse of how separated Pittsburgh can be, one would only have to step one foot into my childhood community, Homewood.

Homewood is a predominately African-American neighborhood in Pittsburgh. When I was a young boy in Homewood, the neighborhood was fun and recreational – there were plenty of activities for children to do around the neighborhood – a skating rink, sports programs, and the like. But the effects of poverty, low-income housing, underemployment, and the drug crisis of the 90’s have since crippled the community.

Pittsburgh has invested millions of dollars into infrastructure and community development, but Homewood was left out of the redeveloping plan. The community still provides programs for youth, but they are not well supported anymore — they have less funding, less manpower, and fewer resources.

Crime is still prevalent in the area and many children and residents have little to no one to look up to. A lot of its residents share the sentiment that no one outside Homewood cares about them.

The struggles of the community and its children resonate with me on a personal level. Like many children in the community today, I grew up with no father in the home. I had a single mother who was addicted to drugs, and it seemed at times that no one cared about the harsh realities of poverty-stricken families in less affluent, drug polluted, communities.

All we had was each other, and with the community being almost completely African American, it seemed as if the outside world simply did not want to deal with the issues in Homewood.

And yet, in the face of this adversity Homewood has always been a proud community. Continue reading “A 40 Year Journey for Unity in My Childhood Community”

I Felt Like Myself Again at Mass Deployment

February 9, 2018
By Heather Cereste, Mass Deployment volunteer

Veteran Heather Cereste volunteering at Mass Deployment with The Mission Continues

My first experience with The Mission Continues was as a participant of Mass Deployment, which was dubbed Operation Westside Surge (OWS), and took place in Atlanta, Georgia that year. My volunteer work up until OWS, while enjoyable, hadn’t yet filled the void in me, or given me a new life’s purpose.

I sought something more in my life, but, until OWS, wasn’t quite sure what.

Today I share this journey with you. Continue reading “I Felt Like Myself Again at Mass Deployment”

Now Accepting Mass Deployment 2018 Applications

February 5, 2018
Mass Deployment Applications are Open

If you want to spend an intensive week volunteering alongside civic-minded veterans from across the country, Mass Deployment is the service opportunity for you!

Join us June 21-28 2018 as we bring veterans together to show how veteran determination and skills can make a positive difference in a community in need. From this week you will forge bonds with fellow volunteers, learn and grow, and reignite your sense of purpose.

Applications are now open for our third annual Mass Deployment, Operation Watts Is Worth It.

We will select 80 veterans from across the country to help lead this mission. Throughout this week of high-octane volunteerism, emerging veteran leaders such as yourself will give their all as they take on tough community challenges in the Watts area. Continue reading “Now Accepting Mass Deployment 2018 Applications”

Our Next Mass Deployment: Operation Watts Is Worth It

The Mission Continues -- Operation Watts is Worth It

Next Stop: Watts, Los Angeles

On June 21-28 2018, we’re deploying 85 veteran leaders to Watts in Los Angeles for our third Mass Deployment, Operation Watts Is Worth It (OWW).

Veterans are a powerful force when called upon to serve. Since leaving the military, tens of thousands have continued to serve in their local communities. They bring hard-earned leadership, exemplary training, and a mission-focused work ethic that is in short supply today.

For the veterans who attend, Mass Deployment is a week of personal growth and community impact. They forge new connections that become lifelong bonds of friendship and support. They undergo technical skill training and team building exercises.

And June is just the beginning of their impact. These leaders will deploy back home and get to work in their own communities.

We’re making an ongoing commitment to Watts — and the more than 500 local veterans of The Mission Continues — who will be at the heart of sustaining our progress.

The Mission Continues veteran volunteers
The Mission Continues veteran volunteers in Watts.

Mass Deployment in a Nutshell

The Mission Continues’ Mass Deployment program is a team-based event that mobilizes veterans alongside local partners and volunteers in a single city for a week of community impact.

We select areas that will benefit from an influx of resources, and that have the potential for sustainable change, ensuring our efforts have a long-term impact.

The Mission Continues volunteers
Youth volunteers at a service project with The Mission Continues in Watts.

Why Watts?

A community with a history older than the state of California, Watts has been called the most powerful neighborhood in Los Angeles. As with many urban areas in America, residents face daily trials related to under-resourced schools, depopulation, disinvestment and underemployment.

The capacity and resources of social services organizations in the area are spread thin, so those who need assistance most often find it hard to access help.

Through it all, Watts has maintained a unique and vibrant identity and its residents deserve a brighter future.

Now more than ever, reasons to hope abound. City officials, corporate leaders and philanthropic organizations are coming together to make investments in the neighborhood and positive progress is on the horizon.

Local community groups have been actively engaged in creating a better tomorrow for themselves and the families who live there.

Now, veterans are responding, too. By reporting for duty alongside The Mission Continues, residents can take part in creating solutions to address these challenges and ensure positive progress continues.

Los Angeles Platoon
The Los Angeles Platoon

Here Are the Facts

  • Watts is a community in transition, yet decades after the 1965 riots, it remains a community still dealing with poverty, unemployment and crime.
  • Watts — a historically black community of roughly two square miles and home to about 40,000 residents — has grown more multiracial. About 70 percent of the people here are Latino, 28 percent are black or African-American, and 2 percent are from other ethnic groups.
  • Roughly 1 out of 4 current Watts residents holds a high school diploma or GED, resulting in underemployment and limited economic opportunities.
  • Unemployment in California has improved since the latest recession, recently averaging about 5.8 percent. Nevertheless, the unemployment rate around Watts has lagged, hovering around 7 percent.

How to Get Involved

Applications for veteran participants open February 2018. Interested in applying? Visit missioncontinues.org/deployments to sign up for application alerts.

For information on how to make a financial contribution to OWW, please contact development@missioncontinues.org.

Operation Westside Surge: What Was Our Impact?

July 28, 2017

One month ago we brought 70+ veterans to Atlanta’s Westside for a week of service. Today we release our full Impact Report. These veterans from all over the country answered the call to serve again, this time with a different uniform, The Mission Continues uniform.

This week of service, which we call Mass Deployment, brings us to a different city each year, one where we have been working directly with local nonprofits and their communities. We listen to their mission and goals, ask them what they need, and figure out how we can deliver.

Most of the crew had never gone on a Mass Deployment with us before, and some hadn’t even heard of us before this. Luckily for them, we had 10 Ambassadors — veteran volunteers who had been to our previous Mass Deployment a year prior — join us to lead teams during projects and be a general resource for newcomers throughout the week. Continue reading “Operation Westside Surge: What Was Our Impact?”

Mass Deployment: “Just another op? I thought so, until it wasn’t”

July 6, 2017
Peggy Schnack, Fellow Alum

Not long after our Mass Deployment to Atlanta, the impact of their weeklong service intensive was apparent to our crew of volunteers. One crew member, Peggy Schnack, shared through our Operation Westside Surge Facebook group a poem about this experience and the impact volunteering has had on her life. Today on the blog we share that poem with our entire Mission Continues family.

I was in a dark place.

A place of despair.

I did not eat

exercise

talk.

Continue reading “Mass Deployment: “Just another op? I thought so, until it wasn’t””

Operation Westside Surge: Listening to the Voices in Atlanta

June 2, 2017

Panelists, including Kimia Flournoy, talking with The Mission Continues staff about revitalization efforts in Atlanta.

With our second Mass Deployment just a week away, we wanted to check in with some of our troops based in Atlanta. Just like last year’s Operation Motown Muster, this year’s Operation Westside Surge is built from the bottom up, based on the needs from within the community and local nonprofits. The work that 75+ veterans will be accomplishing is going to give the work already being done a big boost, and help set the service platoon on the path to even greater impact in the Westside.

Kimia and fellow platoon members at a service project in Atlanta.

Perhaps the people most apt to describe what a program like Operation Westside Surge represents someone like Kimia Flournoy. She is a Westside resident, Atlanta 1st Service Platoon member, and current Mission Continues Fellow. As an Atlanta resident, Kimia feels a strong connection to Operation Westside Surge.

“When I first moved to Atlanta, I was in the Westside. I stayed in that area for a couple years, and now I know the in’s and out’s, I know the kids, I know what can be done. Mission Continues is saying, ‘we’re coming to help you do what you’re already doing, but we’re going to give you a boost up, and help you have more pride in your community.’ Once Westside Surge leaves, we will continue to make our community better — I hope we can keep the momentum up.” Continue reading “Operation Westside Surge: Listening to the Voices in Atlanta”

5 Ways You Can Help Us in Atlanta

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! 

Continue reading “5 Ways You Can Help Us in Atlanta”

Now Accepting Applications for Operation Westside Surge

February 10, 2017

The Application for Operation Westside Surge is Live!

We had a fun and impactful week in Detroit last spring for Operation Motown Muster, and we are rolling with its momentum straight into the next Mass Deployment June 8-15, 2017. This year’s Mass Deployment has been dubbed Operation Westside Surge, and it will bring us to Atlanta, one of the most cosmopolitan and diverse cities in the country today.

Just like last year, this service opportunity will have you spending a week digging, drilling and dining alongside 70+ like-minded veterans from around the country.

The application for newcomers is open from February 3 until March 31. The earlier you apply, the better!

Continue reading “Now Accepting Applications for Operation Westside Surge”

Here’s One Deployment We Can’t Get Enough Of

August 8, 2016
By Mary Beth Bruggeman

13502557_10153725693838170_7969695873164870499_oMary Beth Bruggeman, left, serving at Operation Motown Muster.

The word “deployment” has so many emotional associations for military veterans that it can be difficult to explain to a non-veteran why we miss them.

Few relish the time spent away from family, missed birthdays and anniversaries, first steps and even the birth of their children. They don’t miss the fear, the discomfort, the flies, the hole in the ground that serves as a shared toilet, or the pain and sadness from the loss of their comrades in arms.

But sure enough, through the joy and the excitement of homecoming, there often lingers an unsettling desire to be back out there with our brothers and sisters, committed to a difficult mission that, by its very nature, tries us and unites us in common purpose.

And in a twist of psychology that defies all reason, we miss it when it’s over.

Continue reading “Here’s One Deployment We Can’t Get Enough Of”