Our newest veterans are returning home with invaluable skills and experience. That’s a great thing. They also encounter challenges of reintegrating back into civilian life. But it’s a challenge we can overcome, and it begins with service.
Through opportunities created by The Mission Continues, veterans reinvest their grit and experience they earned in the military back into their communities. The result is two-fold: our veterans are ignited by service and camaraderie once again, and communities are stronger for embracing their compassion and strength.
This year saw exceptional growth in our Service Platoon Program — 30 platoons in 25 cities are tackling the biggest issues facing our communities, like providing environmental stewardship in San Diego and combating hunger in Chicago.
Important work continued for 260 Fellows at organizations like Habitat for Humanity, the Lincoln Center, Pritzker Military Museum and over 200 more nationally. Their six-month fellowships combined for over 100,000 volunteer hours—more than a decade of service, continuing right here in our country.
Our veterans, supporters and local communities have all agreed on one thing: this nation is stronger when its citizens serve others. We asked veterans to report for duty once again.
This is how they answered the call.
“Any time you can motivate and bring together people for a common purpose, it impacts the community in a positive way.”
The ink was barely dry on Mark Coffin’s discharge papers when he received his letter of acceptance to The Mission Continues Fellowship Program. With over 27 years of service as an Army officer and plenty of experience in cyber security and intelligence, Mark Coffin could have chosen any number of lucrative jobs.
Instead, Mark chose to report for duty in his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska.
Over the course of his fellowship at Habitat for Humanity, Mark helped coordinate home builds, recruited veterans to volunteer at projects and educated veterans on the resources Habitat for Humanity provides.
Mark’s example has motivated other veterans to apply for the Fellowship Program and to volunteer in their community. For Mark, it’s another day’s work in a lifelong legacy of service.
“The job hunt was difficult in the past, but after I got going in my fellowship, I was able to walk into interviews and tell them about my work at The Mission Continues. It made a huge difference.”
When Yasin Jackson left the Army in 2007, she envisioned a transition to life at home that included finishing her college degree and finding meaningful employment. It didn’t quite work that way. She struggled to find a job and keep a roof over her head.
Then in early 2014, Yasin found information on The Mission Continues while searching for employment and volunteer opportunities. She read about the work of New York 1st Service Platoon - Manhattan and signed up immediately.
Yasin rediscovered her love of service in the platoon and decided to apply for a fellowship at The Mission Continues. She was accepted into the program and served the next six months with the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, all while staying active in the service platoon.
The fellowship did more than add a bullet point to a resume. It built her confidence back up and propelled her experience and skills to the next level. She accepted a full-time position due in large part to her time in the fellowship.
In addition to her new job, Yasin has also taken on perhaps her biggest challenge yet: as platoon leader, she is executing her own projects and growing her base of volunteer veterans in New York.
What started as a few clicks on The Mission Continues website has since turned into a renewed sense of service and leadership. “It changed my life,” she said.
“Because of my fellowship, the farm was able to carry on despite staff challenges and make an impact on the community. And serving there helped me get back up.”
The horses knew there was a challenge that Kelly Kaehler needed to overcome, maybe before she did.
Kelly served as an Air Force military police officer, including tours in Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Kyrgyzstan. Kelly had to work twice as hard to prove herself in a job crowded by men. She excelled, but at a cost.
She left the Air Force to pursue a degree, but anxiety crept into the months-long gap between the military and school. Kelly realized she needed a place to focus her energy.
Then she saw an episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart featuring The Mission Continues, and the message of leadership struck her immediately. She was accepted into the next fellowship class.
Kelly chose to serve with the Beverly Farms Equestrian Center outside St. Louis to help disabled adults and children find a passion for riding. The horses could keenly sense her anxiety, and their behavior helped her realize the challenges she needed to confront.
Over the course of her fellowship, Kelly overcame her anxiety with each trot around the farm, and she held riding lessons of her own soon after she started.
Now she’s on track to finish her degree following her fellowship. She can feel a stronger confidence within. The horses can too.
volunteer hours by Fellows in 2014
(equivalent to 11½ years of work)
“The Mission Continues appealed to me right away. It’s not about asking what you can do for a veteran. We need to view veterans as assets in the community.”
Accomplish the mission. Keep fellow Marines safe. That was Lucas Waldron’s task in Afghanistan.
The next objective wasn’t as clear. Lucas struggled for months to find employment after leaving the Marine Corps. He started college and eventually found a job at a coffee shop. But it didn’t fulfill the higher purpose Lucas felt as a Marine.
Lucas saw The Mission Continues on The Daily Show and was struck by the idea of accepting challenges over handouts. He started his fellowship shortly after graduation.
He served with the Inspiration Corporation, which provides training for Chicago’s homeless to work in the restaurant industry. Lucas focused on veterans outreach to connect fellow vets with resources. He knew their struggle well. “I had been in that position where I couldn’t get a job. No one would give me a chance,” he said.
Thanks to his work there, he received a job offer at an apartment complex for homeless veterans before he finished the fellowship.
Lucas now leads Chicago 2nd Service Platoon. The man who once couldn’t find a job is now leading his community, and he’s still helping others find their potential by harnessing his own.
Pittsburgh 1st Service Platoon
How do you get a neighborhood back on its feet? That’s the question Pittsburgh 1st Service Platoon wanted to answer. Hazelwood is one Pittsburgh’s most challenged communities, and as redevelopment inches forward, residents are in need of partners to help renovate homes and keep the community strong and engaged.
“By supporting community revitalization and housing rehabilitation, we help keep people in their homes and strengthen the neighborhood.”
With the generous support of The Heinz Endowments, Highmark, Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh and the Center of Life, the platoon gathered in Hazelwood for six service projects in 2014, which saved local nonprofits nearly $15,000 in labor costs.
James says the platoon is like a group of old friends. Local veterans work shoulder to shoulder to strengthen the Hazelwood community, and in doing so, the bonds they form grow stronger as they prove themselves more capable than ever.
One platoon member told James after a project: “I’m so thankful that this opportunity has come into my life. What you have given me, I didn’t even know I needed."
Minneapolis 1st Service Platoon
Minneapolis 1st Service Platoon is on a mission to combat homelessness in the community. Since 2007, homelessness in Minnesota has increased by 32 percent, and each night more than 10,000 people sleep on the streets without a home.
Sponsored by Target, Minneapolis 1st Service Platoon is working together with city leaders and local nonprofits to improve the lives of people affected by homelessness.
The service platoon is led by Lee Freeman, a 15-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force and alumni of The Mission Continues Fellowship Program.
Since launching the service platoon in September 2014, Lee and his team of veteran volunteers have refurbished multiple homeless shelters and delivered vital resources like clothing and hygiene kits to homeless individuals. It’s a community-wide approach to combating homelessness made possible with the support and partnership of leading community organizations.
“I’m in awe of the tremendous impact when 30 or more of these veterans come together as a team,” Lee said. “The possibilities of influence and impact are endless.”
The Wooten Heritage Center
Poverty and gang violence keep a lot of kids there from reaching their potential in southern Los Angeles. Naomi McSwain understands — her cousin, Al Wooten, Jr., was killed in a shooting in 1989. Decades later, Naomi is the executive director of the Al Wooten Heritage Center and helps kids excel in academic enrichment programs and after-school activities.
Naomi saw a natural partner in The Mission Continues and a generation of veterans who, forged by war, reflect on lessons of both good and hard times of the past to build a better future.
Nearly 20 members of the Los Angeles 1st Service Platoon converged on the Wooten Center in July and transformed the space in hours, knocking down a troublesome wall, covering graffiti on the outside and leaving the walls coated in our trademark blue.
Most importantly, the service project was a tangible moment for the kids to understand that a community of people deeply care for their success and happiness.
"It was the most heartfelt volunteer effort since I've been here,” Naomi said. “And I've been involved at the center for 24 years.”
the dollar value our Fellows contributed to community
organizations across the country in 2014.
Hart Middle School
Charles Hart Middle School in Southeast DC serves a community of students often labeled “underserved” and “at-risk.” More than 95% of students are on free or reduced lunches and the median income of the surrounding community hovers near the poverty line.
So when the time came to find a partner for our 2014 Bravo Class orientation service project, Hart Middle School was an obvious choice. The school has endured thanks to the efforts of dedicated staff and leadership. They could just use some assistance, they said, in making the school a place worthy of their students once again.
More than 300 Fellows, volunteers and community members deployed to Hart on May 17th for a one-day service blitz. By day’s end, volunteers had painted nearly 30,000 sq. ft. of walls and surface, reorganized and cleaned the school’s library and built an outdoor learning center.
Wounded Warrior Project
In 2014, Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) and The Mission Continues joined forces to expand service programs for veterans across the country. WWP infused The Mission Continues Fellowship and Service Platoon Programs with a two-year investment of $6.3 million, which augments WWP’s 20 existing, free programs and services that meet the needs of more than 75,000 wounded veterans, their caregivers, and families.
This collaboration is a force multiplier for both organizations. WWP Alumni – wounded veterans who are registered with WWP - have even more opportunities to serve in their communities and connect with other veterans through our Fellowship and Service Platoon Programs. WWP has also facilitated involvement with The Mission Continues through their great programs, like Project Odyssey®, Peer Support, Soldier Ride®, and more.
We welcomed 85 WWP Alumni into our Fellowship Program in 2014 and more than 200 into service platoons nationally. We look forward to strengthening our relationship even further in 2015.
In 2014, The Mission Continues expanded its collaboration with Disney in two exciting ways. First, Disney provided 72 Fellows in Alpha Class 2014 with a special visit to The American Adventure Pavilion at Epcot® for them to take their new oath of service.
Disney then joined forces with The Mission Continues to expand its Service Platoon Program across the country – in Los Angeles, New York and Orlando – to focus on assisting kids and military families through community projects. The Mission Continues Service Platoons also benefit from The Walt Disney Company Heroes Work Here Initiative to create more opportunities for veterans to build careers beyond their military service.
of Platoon Members agree that being a Platoon Member
makes them feel like part of a team.
To help build The Mission Continues presence and impact in Massachusetts, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft made a personal gift of $100,000 to fund seven fellowships for post-9/11 veterans. With his leadership in Massachusetts, we are able to spread the word to more veterans, as well as making the fellowships possible. The first three veterans awarded Robert K. Kraft Fellowships are Mark Engelsman, Austin Grainey and Mike Smith. Mr. Kraft has also made this a challenge gift—we need to match it with three new $100,000+ investments from individual donors by the end of 2015. We have one so far and are excited for others to reach the end zone.
With 400,000 veterans living in the area and a strong civic commitment to their successful reintegration, Greater Houston is an important city for The Mission Continues to reach more veterans and to showcase their leadership here at home. The Houston Endowment has made a strategic growth investment of $200,000 over two years to help us increase service platoons and fellowships, and in turn, to help the community to witness these positive stories.
As a highly respected foundation, The Houston Endowment’s investment is also helping The Mission Continues to forge other partnerships in the community. In 2014, our service platoons helped accomplish nearly 20 service projects and events in youth mentoring and health and wellness, in partnership with strong local organizations. More than 20 Fellows served in a range of nonprofits across the city, including Alliance for Multicultural Services, Fifth Ward Enrichment Program and Kids Meals Houston.
Erik Yohe could reach out and touch the spirit of service growing up. His father was in the Air Force, and his brother later joined to become a pilot. Erik’s path was different, but he never lost that connection to the military.
Erik was enthusiastic about us as soon as he heard about The Mission Continues. “Empowering veterans that want to help others is a great objective,” he said. “These are veterans who want to continue serving.”
To do his part, Erik decided to merge two goals in life: raise money for an impactful veterans organization and run a marathon. Erik received a fundraising slot to run the Marine Corps Marathon in Arlington, Virginia. He began training in mid-2014 and kicked off his fundraising campaign soon after, eventually raising nearly $7,000 for The Mission Continues. Erik ran alongside a team of 36 runners supporting The Mission Continues—raising nearly $60,000 combined.
After running 26.2 miles with his new friends (and fueled by the incredible support of his cheering wife!), he was exhausted but happy. He knew his hard work would help put veterans at the ready to strengthen their communities.
We can accomplish our mission only through contributions, and responsible financial stewardship is one of our highest priorities at The Mission Continues. With the help of our funders, we completed year one of an ambitious three-year growth plan in 2014 — launching 30 service platoons by the end of the year and preparing for growth to 70-80 service platoons in 2015 — while also increasing fellowships across the country. To support that growth, we booked $4 million in advance commitments for 2015 as part of our revenue in 2014.
*This total includes $4 million raised for 2015
2015 Board Members
Managing Director, Citigroup
Executive Director, JP Morgan Private Bank
Executive Director, Morgan Stanley
Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Center for a New American Security (CNAS)
Professor and Faculty Director, Center for Public Leadership, Harvard Kennedy School
President of Worldwide Marketing and Distribution, Sony Pictures Entertainment
Founder, The Mission Continues
Chairman of the Board, Cordia Bancorp
Senior Vice President, SAP National Security Services
Vice Admiral, U.S. Navy (Ret.)
President and Founder, New Profit Inc.
President, The Mission Continues
Vice President, Boeing