Our Most Memorable Projects of 2016

December 21, 2016

As we gathered as an organization and in our teams to discuss our goals for the upcoming year, we also thought it important to take stock of moments in 2016 where we felt like we totally rocked it, so that we may continue to learn and grow. To that end, each member of the Regional Resource team, our amazing project planners, took some time to look back on 2016 and pick out one project that really spoke to them.

Regional Resource Specialists are dedicated to planning and managing their projects, and often collaborate and work alongside Mission Continues volunteers. Creating a meaningful and impactful experience for volunteers, community members, and The Mission Continues is what a RRS is all about.

Here’s a look at what they came up with.

 

Women Veteran’s Leadership Summit, New Orleans

Damion Martin, Central Region

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Damion at Women Veterans Leadership Summit with attendees

Since this was our first ever Women Veteran’s Leadership Summit, I felt some pressure to not mess up. I really enjoyed seeing the excitement, appreciation, and engagement of the women veterans and non-veterans involved as they took complete ownership of their roles in making this summit a success. Everyone wanted to help prove its worth and make it an annual event.

We found a local school (Langston Hughes Academy) as part of the New Orleans FirstLine Schools charter system that partnered with The Edible Schoolyard program to provide healthy relationships with healthy eating in schools and at home.

We were collaborative from the start and worked alongside the AmeriCorps VISTA program that placed teachers in the school to ensure the kids had the encouragement, education, and healthy eating habits to carve out a path to achieve their dreams.
What helped us become successful with this project was getting to know the volunteer force, really taking time to find kick-ass projects, and including students during the prep days.

 

Bravo Orientation 2016, Rainier Beach High School, Seattle

Joshua Arntson, National Events

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Joshua speaking at the Bravo Orientation service project

Rainier Beach Valley is one of the most diverse communities in the country. It is underserved, so having our orientation service project at the high school was really important to the local community and the Seattle 1st Platoon.

Our volunteers had already done a couple projects in the local area but this really helped immerse the platoon in that community. One of the major tasks that the school asked us to look into was revitalizing the front of the school. We were able to dig up all the dead plants, bushes and trees and replace them with new ones. We also brought in several cubic yards of mulch to give it a fresh look and brought in several cubic yards of gravel to refurbish the existing path that was overgrown with weeds and would flood when it rained. It is now handicap accessible as well.  

One of the things that made it a special project was being able to work with Nick Sullivan (Seattle 1st Platoon) and Ryan Mielcarek (South Sound 1st Platoon). Those two are what all Platoon Leaders should strive to be. They really care about what they are doing and will go above and beyond to help others. The success of the service project could not have happened without them. We were able to get all the project task completed and make a significant impact at this most deserving school.  

 

United is Service Campaign, Orting Washington

Teresa Crippen, West region

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Teresa with the Tacoma 1st Platoon

In the beginning of September, I had the opportunity to attend Shawn Durnen’s first project as the Platoon Leader for the Tacoma 1st Platoon in Orting, Washington.

We had meetings with the partners and put together a plan for a successful day for the platoon and volunteers. With about a month to go until the project, we got word that Expedia would like to send 100 volunteers. With this new addition of volunteers, we had to go back to the drawing board for more projects. It was great to see Shawn’s ideas and help him build them out to accommodate the most volunteers and stay within the budget.

Overall, the project at Washington Soldiers Home and Colony was a great learning experience on both sides.  I was able to see the different skill sets of our PLs and identify tools that would be helpful while planning for their future events. Shawn got some insight into the amount of prep and diligence needed when it comes to the planning and execution the details of a project.

The biggest takeaway came at the end of the service day when the platoon was sitting around the fire pit gathering area that was created during that day. After all the volunteers left, the platoon stayed behind and talked. It may have been subtle, but it reinforced the community that is behind the platoon.

So while we were there for the work, which all got done, we were also there to build community. And thanks to Shawn, that happened for the platoon at Washington Soldiers Home.

 

Charlie Orientation 2016, Little Earth, Minneapolis

Jess Peter, Midwest region

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Jess kicking off the Charlie Orientation service project

The Charlie Orientation project at Little Earth really showed me what buy-in and teamwork looked like.

Our hosts at Little Earth of United Tribes were working collectively from the beginning to bring us the voices of the residents and their priorities. This meant that there was a strong willingness to support us during planning, prep, and execution from their staff and teen program. We were all on the same page and executed through the pouring rain to deliver a complete project.

We worked as a team, taking ownership over different areas and improving overall ability to plan and execute. Each of us had ownership to make decisions independently, knowing the overall goals.

 

United in Service Campaign, Ellis Island, New York City

Marvin Cadet, Northeast region

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Marvin at Ellis Island, with platoon volunteers

This project was part of our greater effort of honoring those we lost on September 11th, 2001. The Mission Continues, in partnership with the National Parks Service, hosted a service project revitalizing parts of Ellis Island. Flood waters from Hurricane Sandy covered almost all of Ellis Island, damaging a majority of its infrastructure. Repairs and recovery efforts help restore Ellis Island, but this was the first time a large group of veterans who call New York City and New Jersey home were able to make contributions to that effort.

The platoons filled three 30 yard dumpsters to the brim with old office furniture, refurbished 8 statues, painted the interior of one of the towers in the Ellis Island Immigration Museum and mulched well over 20 trees.

Working with the National Parks Service and supporting their vision for Ellis Island was an honor. This project was particularly meaningful to me after having completed some formal project management training, I really put that learning to use on the job! Our Platoon Leaders and Fellows based here in the city enjoyed leading parts of the project as well.

 

Veterans Day, National Day of Service, DC

Katrina Hill, Southeast region

 

All five DC Platoons came together at the Malcolm X Opportunity Center and Congress Park (two of our operational host sites in Southeast that are across the street from one another) for a great Veterans Day project. We cleaned up existing guarding beds, built adult exercise stations, refurbished picnic tables, fixed up a sad looking set of bleachers, and hauled thousands of pounds of junk, amongst other things.

This project was a particular favorite of mine because it was high impact but relatively low stress. Jackie, our DC 1st Platoon Leader, really pitched in with the planning, and all of our DC PLs stepped up to be team leaders on the project day.

As with all of our projects in the Southeast region, we developed projects that include a wide variety of tasks so that volunteers of all ages and skill levels can meaningfully participate.

In my former life as an AmeriCorps NCCC Team Leader, we talk a lot about the “why behind the what” – essentially connecting what you’re doing to the “bigger picture.” We were fortunate to have Anthony, the site director at Malcolm X, share his vision for the center and really connect those dots. At the end of the day, not only was there a strong visual transformation of the site, our volunteers understood some of the more intangible ways that their labor had had a positive impact.

Finally, we completed a kick ass #mannequin challenge during our Veterans Day project. Still waiting for it to go viral…

 

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.

Three Encouragements For The New Administration

December 1, 2016

transitionmeetingSpencer Kympton, president of The Mission Continues and seated at far right, joins other veteran leaders on December 1, 2016, in Washington, DC.

Since our founding, we have always been a nonprofit, non-partisan organization dedicated to bringing together veterans and innovative organizations to create transformational change for communities in need all across the country. The past nine years of service have inspired countless opportunities to learn and grow as a nonprofit uniquely focused on empowering veterans. In that spirit, we joined nearly 30 organizations serving our veterans and military families this morning to share our experience at the first outside meeting with members of the Presidential Transition Office focused on veteran support.

Continue reading “Three Encouragements For The New Administration”

Thanksgiving with The Mission Continues Family

November 29, 2016

The Mission Continues family extends all across the country. And while we spent the Thanksgiving holiday apart, we were together in spirit. Through the power of pictures, we invite you into our homes to share the essence of family, friends and togetherness. From big feasts, to small gatherings with friends, to Turkey Trots and snuggling with pets, we had just about every kind of thanksgiving out there. Continue reading “Thanksgiving with The Mission Continues Family”

Time to Shine, Hampton Roads, Renee Foster is Here!

November 4, 2016

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We are happy to welcome Renee Foster, our new City Impact Manager for Hampton Roads in Virginia. As a Navy veteran and former Platoon Leader, Renee is already familiar with The Mission Continues family. But we want to introduce her to you too. After interviewing her, we’ve put together a little Q&A about Renee.

Describe your city for someone who has never been to it. What do you see as its most urgent challenges?

Hampton Roads is the name of the geographical area encompassing seven cities. We have a large population of at-risk youth, and gang violence is the biggest issue here. I live in the area myself, and I think some of this is happening because there are not enough jobs for youth. Most of the jobs available to them are low paying jobs, so young people resort to selling drugs as the money-making option.

I also see a lack of father or mother figures in the lives of these youth, because some of them are living in a single parent households. A solution to that could be a strong mentorship program for teens and young adults to help them build job-related skills and get them to see beyond where they are now.  

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What drew you to The Mission Continues?

For me, being a veteran is a strong part of my identity. The thing I miss most about the military is the camaraderie and the structure. I was drawn to The Mission Continues because even though I didn’t serve in the post-9/11 era, (because I got out in ‘97), I still wanted to help the people who did serve post-9/11. I want to help my military brothers and sisters.

What is something you think everyone needs to hear about veterans?

I don’t like it when I hear people say that veterans are “brainwashed” or “reprogrammed.” I say veterans are humans too. We make mistakes and have our moments just like everybody else. We’re human. Even while we’re in the military and even when we get out, we’re human first.

What is something embarrassing that’s happened to you that is unique?

I am prone to trip when there’s nothing there!

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What do you like to do in your spare time?

I love camping, fishing, biking, shooting and archery ranges — pretty much anything outdoors.

If you had to be a fictional character, who would you choose and why?

I would be wonder woman. I would be able to handle all things, be in different places in the blink of an eye, and be that invisible fly on the wall. I think the part I would love the most is being able to help people and do good.

 

Want to join the team? Check out our careers page for available opportunities. 

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.

What’s New with the Los Angeles Office?

October 19, 2016

Two more team members have joined The Mission Continues family in Los Angeles! We are pleased to welcome Emily Hummel and Nestor Ramirez, who will be greatly increasing the capacity for our Communications and Research and Evaluation teams, respectively. Both Emily and Nestor will help our organization on a national level — you’ll be able to see their hard work reflected in our social media, impact reporting, and improvements in our programs.

Continue reading “What’s New with the Los Angeles Office?”

Meet Our Newest Executive Director, Tony Arendt

October 8, 2016

We recently welcomed Tony Arendt to the Mission Continues family as our Midwest Executive Director. Tony will be spearheading our plans for building local relationships and making a sustainable impact in cities like Chicago, Detroit, and more. Hopefully you’ll get to meet Tony yourself, but in the meantime, here’s a brief introduction. Continue reading “Meet Our Newest Executive Director, Tony Arendt”

How Did You Come to Work at The Mission Continues?

September 29, 2016
By Chris Randall, Fellowship Program Specialist

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Why I Wanted to Serve

From the time I was eight years old, I knew I wanted to be a Marine. Growing up in North St. Louis, my father was my role model – a standout in a tough neighborhood. He was determined to not let anything, let alone age requirements, get in his way. He enlisted in the Air Force at the age of 15 — before he could drive, vote or buy a beer — and served during the Korean War.

I wasn’t exactly a great student as a kid, but I was dedicated in other ways, and most important, I was dedicated to my dream. More than anything, I wanted to be part of the military like my father. So I started early. I joined the Young Marines Program when I was 8 years old, and attend Cleveland Jr. Naval Academy in St. Louis for high school.

In many ways, just like my father, I didn’t want to waste any time. I felt ready, more than ready, to achieve my dream as soon as possible, so much so that I made sure to graduate high school ahead of schedule so I could enlist at the age of 17.

Continue reading “How Did You Come to Work at The Mission Continues?”

A “Salute From The Chief”

September 14, 2016

closing-ceremony-mission-continuesSpencer Kympton, center, addresses Charlie Class 2014 Fellows at their orientation in Los Angeles.

General Mark A. Milley, 39th Chief of Staff of the Army, will recognize Spencer Kympton, president of The Mission Continues, with the Outstanding Civilian Service Award for his leadership of the national nonprofit organization and dedication to supporting our veterans and military families. The award is the third-highest public service honor the Army can bestow upon a civilian.

The Mission Continues is a national non-profit that connects veterans to opportunities to serve again—here at home. It’s a unique model that empowers veterans to build new skills and networks that help them successfully reintegrate to life after the military while making long-term, sustainable transformations in communities and inspiring future generations to serve.

Since taking helm of the organization as president in 2014, Kympton—an US Army veteran—has seen The Mission Continues continue its growth in scale and impact with nearly 10,000 veterans participating in community service across the country. Operations in cities nationwide now deploy veteran volunteers alongside non-profit partners and community leaders to solve some of the most challenging issues facing our communities. More than 60 teams of veterans and community volunteers have mobilized across the country through our Service Platoon Program, and thousands more have been engaged to date through the The Mission Continues Fellowship Program.

Continue reading “A “Salute From The Chief””

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”