May 10, 2018
“I remember when I was in Afghanistan and Iraq, I used to hope that those who wanted to leave and find better lives would find them,” said City Impact Manager Doug Pfeffer, an Army veteran.
Once he came back to the United States, Doug dedicated his career to helping veterans. But joining The Mission Continues has expanded his mission to more than that — he works with service-minded veterans to make a difference in the lives of others too.
As a City Impact Manager, Doug leads multi-year operations empowering veterans to build stronger communities. Through Operation Back to the Beach, Seattle 1st Service Platoon helps under-resourced neighborhoods and supports a number of nonprofit organizations looking to do good. One such place is the Ethiopian Community in Seattle (ECS), which serves refugees and immigrants of Ethiopia and various African descents.
“It has day camps for kids, adult meetings, community activities and is a beacon of hope in an otherwise difficult part of the south side of Seattle.” Doug reflects, “At the ECS, I see the hope I had for potential refugees come full circle. This is why I served — to help those less fortunate than me.”
Supporting the Building of Strong, Healthy and Sustainable Communities
Leading this effort on the ground is Seattle 1st Service Platoon Leader Glen Wright, also an Army veteran. The ethos of The Mission Continues resonated with Glen too.
“I believe my commitment to service did not stop when I received my DD-214 from the military, I committed to a lifetime of service.”
Motivated to continue serving, Glen found that he connected to the mission of Operation Back to the Beach. “I care about the ECS specifically because when I was growing up in South Carolina there was a center in my neighborhood just like the ECS where all the kids went to and had fun, stayed out of trouble, and gave us a sense of community.”
“I get the satisfaction of knowing we are making the community and other people’s lives better,” said Glen.
Glen and the platoon have achieved a lot of impact thus far. Over the last year, they’ve provided a new sign, renovated a computer lab, removed hazardous structures from the property and created learning spaces. On the task list is the repainting of the building, adding kids play areas and renovating a bathroom. In the future, the platoon would love to add an urban garden and an upgraded kids play structure.
The improvements will lead to a better learning environment for youth, which make up 30% of the area’s population.
What’s more, said Doug, “People in the community feel like someone cares about them. They do believe that The Mission Continues will give their kids a brighter future, and the kids are inspired by our work.”
Rainier Beach’s Past, Present, and Future
Rainier Beach is an area in Southeast Seattle that is part of the larger Rainier Valley, and is home to 5,000 residents. It is often called one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the U.S.
It has been home to a number of newly arrived immigrants, resulting in a changing mix of cultures and needs among the population.
According to the US Census Bureau and the City of Seattle, education levels are lower in Rainier Beach than in SE Seattle and the City, and there are fewer people (over age 16) in the labor force (53%). Poverty rates are higher than the Seattle average – 21.8% families and 31.5% for non-family households.
In addition to challenges in education and poverty, Rainier Beach has historically had a higher crime rate than other communities in Seattle. Several ongoing initiatives exist to combat crime in the area by addressing the underlying, place-based causes of youth victimization, and by targeting specific “hotspots” in the Rainier Beach neighborhood through non-arrest interventions.
The City of Seattle Department of Neighborhoods, in partnership with the Rainier Beach Action Coalition and others, is driving efforts in Rainier Beach to improve the community in four ways through the Rainier Beach Action Plan.
The four major goals of the plan are:
- Make Rainier Beach a beautiful, safe place
- Make Rainier Beach a place for everyone
- Make Rainier Beach a hub for growing food and healthy industry
- Create an innovative, connected learning system in Rainier Beach that is strategically integrated into the neighborhood’s cultural life.
The Mission Continues is partnering with City of Seattle Department of Neighborhoods, Ethiopian Community in Seattle, and others, to help Rainier Beach reach these goals.
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.