Divided We Serve

March 15, 2018
By Lauren DelRicci, Platoon Member

Volunteering with The Mission Continues has exposed me to people that come from all walks of life

We live in a time when our nation is divided along many lines. Political affiliations, religious beliefs, and personal convictions all set people apart. We hold tight to our beliefs and our individuality, pledging allegiance to the causes we deem worthy.

There is nothing wrong with that.

Because I see that this division stems from the passion that American citizens have for the land we call home. Ultimately, we all want the best outcomes for our country; we strive for brotherhood and unity. We are all unique, and no two people are exactly the same.

I believe that’s what makes us strong as a nation.

And yet, among this division, there is an even more powerful force that can draw even the most divided close.

This force is service!

When we shift our focus to serving as a unit, which I’ve learned is The Mission Continues way, something occurs that is hard to put into words. It illuminates the human spirit. Continue reading “Divided We Serve”

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.

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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”

Veterans and Refugees Build Together in Pittsburgh

October 25, 2017
By Stephanie Grimes, City Impact Manager

The Pittsburgh 3rd Service Platoon is a new group of volunteers that are ready to mobilize Pittsburgh’s veteran population–asking them to help refugees living in the South Hills of Pittsburgh. After months of recruiting, planning and collaboration, the newly-born platoon kicked off with their first service project last Saturday.

I launched the platoon this summer for a more specific reason than that: While Pittsburgh has two service platoons dedicated to the underserved neighborhoods of Hazelwood and Homewood, Pittsburgh has seen an increase in their foreign-born population, many of them refugees. Continue reading “Veterans and Refugees Build Together in Pittsburgh”

#HerMission: Pittsburgh 1st Platoon Pioneers All-Women Service Project

April 14, 2017
By Stephanie Grimes, City Impact Manager

Whatever you did with your Saturday, the Pittsburgh 1st Service Platoon did something you’ll definitely want to hear about. This platoon pioneered a special kind of project on April 8th — one empowering women veterans and civilians.

This platoon tackles neighborhood revitalization in a part of Pittsburgh called Hazelwood, and this project’s objective was to give the library classroom at the Center of Life a makeover. Over 50 women veterans, family members, Center of Life staff, and Hazelwood residents, brought the vision of the Hazelwood’s children to reality.

Center of Life is a community empowerment organization in Hazelwood that offers academic, music and sports programming. They are committed to empowering families to bring economic revitalization to their communities. For this project, women of the Hazelwood community and female staff at Center of Life worked with women of the Pittsburgh 1st Platoon to plan, and execute the #HerMission Library Room Makeover project.

During the project planning stage, local Navy veteran Lauren DelRicci, jumped right in as a project lead. This was her first time serving with The Mission Continues, and she said, “I can already tell, the sense of group accomplishment will motivate me to continue serving.” As for this project’s significance, Lauren said, “An all-female service project shines as a beacon of inspiration for women everywhere, especially female veterans.”

We also welcomed women from Wounded Warrior Project, Team Rubicon and Team Red White and Blue to come out to serve alongside their sisters. Most impactful of all, we gave leadership roles to platoon members who hadn’t yet had the opportunity to step up and show us what they are made of. After trying their hand at leading, several women veterans expressed interest in taking on formal leadership roles within the platoon, and even the possibility of working towards becoming a Platoon Leader.

This project was funded through a generous grant the Center of Life received from The Heinz Endowments. Project activities included making puppets while teaching children how to sew and building a puppet theater and a reading loft. We painted the walls and bookshelves to go with the room’s new theme, “The Sunrise.” We ordered new lighting, organized books and games, upholstered new seating made from milk crates, and put together new furniture from IKEA.

By the end of the day, the platoon had inspired female veterans to join in unity through service at home while showing the children and families of Hazelwood that there are people who care about them and are invested in their success.

 

 

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.

How I Found a Job I Love with The Mission Continues

May 16, 2016
By Stephanie Grimes, City Impact Manager

“How’s the new job going?” is a question I have answered no less than 50 times in the last month, as I recently took on the role of City Impact Manager in Pittsburgh for The Mission Continues.

Over the years, I have lived in a lot of places and been in lot of roles.  After graduating college, I moved to Philadelphia where I taught middle school as a Teach for America corp member.

A year later I married my husband, who was in the Army.  We moved from one duty location to another for the next four years. I found meaningful work in a number of jobs supporting high risk youth, had a child of my own, endured a few deployments, and in 2011 I finally ended up in Pittsburgh upon my husband’s discharge from the Army.

Truth be told, we had never even visited Pittsburgh before making the jump.  We crossed our fingers, told ourselves that we could make it through anything, and made our way through tunnels and over bridges to our new home.  In the years following my husband’s transition from the military, our family fell in love with our new city of Pittsburgh.

Continue reading “How I Found a Job I Love with The Mission Continues”

Fostering a Community in Pittsburgh

May 28, 2015

Pittsburgh Platoon 5James O’Connor (third from right) alongside members of Pittsburgh 1st Service Platoon.

Pittsburgh 1st Service Platoon Leader James O’Connor is a finalist of Pittsburgh Champions award in the”First Responders and Military” category. James recently sat down with our team to talk about the platoon and the experience of returning home to Pittsburgh.

James, tell us a little about the mission of Pittsburgh 1st Service Platoon. Why the focus on community development and Hazelwood?

Our service platoon focuses on community revitalization in Hazelwood, a local neighborhood of Pittsburgh. We pinpoint the most “at-risk” home owners in the area by improving their living situation through no-cost home repairs so that home owners can live safely. Our goal is to engage Hazelwood residents and work together with them to preserve equity when property values increase after the new development of the neighboring ALMONO site is built. We are on a joint mission with the Heinz Endowments to prevent the current community from being displaced. Most are lifelong residents in Hazelwood and should be a part of the community during its upswing.

Continue reading “Fostering a Community in Pittsburgh”

Rebuilding Pittsburgh

September 22, 2014

Earlier this month, veterans from The Mission Continues Pittsburgh Service Platoon and Heinz volunteers teamed up with Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh to provide support for a rehabilitation project on an abandoned four story property in Hazelwood — a low-income neighborhood located a few miles southeast of downtown Pittsburgh.

In just a few hours, volunteers sanded, primed and painted interior rooms including all doors, ceilings and windows. They also replaced floorboards, installed drywall in bathrooms and rehabbed a four-car garage. In the future, the property will be resold to a low-income family in need of a home.

Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh has rehabbed five other houses on the block and is dedicated to improving the stability of the neighborhood.

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Sponsored by The Heinz Endowments and Highmark, The Mission Continues Pittsburgh Service Platoon is focusing on community revitalization in the Hazelwood neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Hazelwood is undergoing a riverfront brownfield redevelopment project and the Pittsburgh Service Platoon is mobilizing local veterans to build community members’ sense of ownership and pride in the redesign of their neighborhood.  The veterans of the Pittsburgh Service Platoon will support Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh in early stage housing rehabilitation. Their overall vision is to inspire community members and supporters with their energy, passion, and skills.  

If you’re a veteran, active duty, guardsmen or reservists join a Service Platoon in your city today.