August 8, 2018

What an incredible set of Summer Service Slam weekends we’ve had! We worked hard, made an impact, and had fun in the process. That’s what it’s all about.

Thanks to our incredible volunteers who made these weekends go from a plan on paper to a real experience, and hopefully, to fond memories for all.

Much love to the long-time volunteer champions who stepped up to share their remarkable expertise and aspirations with all of us. And a high five to our incredible partners who will launch from this weekend’s foundation even more impact in their communities.

Take a look at snapshots of each Summer Service Slam weekend that took place throughout the month of July!

1) Operation Seeds of Hope

In Cleveland, we had six projects planned for the day, but completed an extra one! The projects aimed to enhance the Broadway Slavic Village Club’s children’s garden, improve their vegetable garden, and improve the safety and security of their outdoor spaces to help prevent damage and theft.

To these ends, activities included:

  • Installation of approximately 100′ of new privacy fencing
  • Creation of a tiered flower bed
  • Beautify Pollinator Garden
  • Built Observation Deck
  • Built Tire play area
  • Finish Playhouse Renovation

We also had a personal growth workshop led by Alex Sheen, founder of Because I Said I Would, a social movement and non-profit dedicated to the betterment of humanity through promises made and kept. He shared a truly powerful message and it was perfect to inspire people leading into the service project.

Alex also donated his speaking fee back to The Mission Continues, so that it could be used for the creation of three new activity stations in the children’s garden. Thank you, Alex!

2) El Paso 1st Platoon Launch

The Summer Service Slam in El Paso was even more special because it kicked off the El Paso 1st Service Platoon’s work in the community with an inaugural service project. This new volunteer group will focus on food insecurity in the binational neighborhood, Chamizal.

Led by Joel Carbajal, El Paso 1st successfully completed its first project at Bowie High School as 130 volunteers expanded and improved an urban community food garden.

Open to families and children, this veteran-led effort was community and impact-oriented. It even attracted some media attention!

Some things volunteers got done in El Paso were:

  • Harvesting vegetables, fruits, and herbs;
  • Improving drip irrigation system
  • Planting seeds and seedlings
  • Garden bed preparation, weeding, pruning
  • Garden weeding and grass removal
  • Garden shed organization

3) Operation Kansas City Climb

“I loved the beautification and transformation of Banneker Elementary and hearing that Principal Bates was so pleased. We made an impact, the teamwork was awesome, and I love me some Mission Continues!” – Sara Bradshaw, Columbia 1st Platoon

Together with the Kansas City 1st platoon, veterans from across the Midwest came together with their heads and hearts set on helping a local school — Banneker Elementary — with revitalizing their campus.

The team built an outdoor classroom, with seating and mobile chalkboard, and seven benches and picnic tables around the playground perimeter of the building. We also painted the parent and teacher resource rooms. All in all, the group completed every item on the project itinerary, which was a huge morale booster!

Overall, 34 veterans, 9 community members (including the school principal and some teachers), nine youth, and five staff members completed 250+ hours of service in a single day.

Sunday morning the crew kicked off the day with a yoga class led by a teacher who specializes in trauma-informed yoga and veterans. After class, we participated in a group conversation based on the “What? So What? Now What?” model to review the weekend and set intentions to return home.

“You made everyone feel welcomed, wanted, valued, and loved. This mission opened my eyes to how great an organization The Mission Continues is. I will definitely be joining a platoon” – Anonymous Veteran Participant

4) BEast Coast Collaboration

When an opportunity to transform a community emerges, we don’t shy away. We stand up. And when 100+ veterans and volunteers across the east coast take a stand, the country pays attention. For one special weekend, we unified a diverse array of leaders to learn from one other, build lasting relationships, and provide Baltimore a spark of hope that will last for generations.

Through the wind, rain, dirt, rocks, rock walls, lines of lumber, and zip lines…you came, saw, and conquered. Check out the Impact Report, which details the inspiring story of our two days in Baltimore.

Thanks for your investment in the community. You’re providing hope because somebody cares about them, and now they believe that this community can be transformed. To have veterans who have already done so much for their country to give back speaks volumes, and it inspires our young people. Suddenly, people are seeing that our streets are getting safe and lots are getting clean and houses are being improved. You’re bringing us light, hope, and transformation. –Pastor Billy Humphrey

“When I first served with The Mission Continues, I thought it would just be a one-time thing. But then you realize who you are collaborating with, and the things you can do with this community. Now here I am, working on a major project with the whole east coast, and you never thought you could do something like that.” — Gretchell Cano, Miami

“This experience brings me great joy, and I can’t help but be moved and motivated. I can’t wait to take this feeling back to my home and re-energize our platoons so we can have an incredible community impact.” — Kareem, Atlanta

Over the weekend, we:

  • Strengthened City of Refuge’s capacity and environment for providing vital community services by building picnic tables, benches, and rolling tables
  • To enable a new social enterprise program for urban agriculture and expanded access to fresh produce, we cleared overgrowth and debris from a vacant lot and built garden beds
  • Painted and restored the interior of a row home to improve supportive housing for disenfranchised families so they can regain stability

5) Operation #FixOurParks

In partnership with the National Park Service and the National Parks Conservation Association, Operation #FixOurParks took place on the weekend of July 27-29.

This weekend was our final weekend of the Summer Service Slam, and the West Region got busy at three national parks — Grand Canyon National Park, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, World War II Valor In The Pacific National Monument, and Mount Rainier National Park!

  • 4 national parks
  • 92 participants
  • 496 service hours
  • $17,750 worth of deferred maintenance
  • 1 mission: fix our parks!

So in addition to the service project, we went on numerous hikes, bonded over the beautiful surroundings, had a chance to catch our breath in the stunning wilderness, shared meals and laughs and looked out for one another during trying times on the hikes.

We entered the park as strangers separated by distance and left the wilderness connected by a shared sense of service.

City Impact Manager Jimi Shaughnessy said, “It always amazes me to see how quickly veterans can bond with one another and begin to appreciate the differences each one brings with them in addition to their military service.”

The National Parks Conservation Association and The Sequoia Parks Conversancy contributed with camping gear, snacks, a guided tour and participation in the service project. Thank you for giving us our project in Sequoia a $1,500.00 credit on their website. We purchased 3 complete gear sets, which were used on this trip and will be used on future trips.

In Honolulu, thank you Starbucks for providing breakfast and thank you Wounded Warrior Project for providing lunch!

In Mount Ranier, Bank Of America bought all of the food, Wounded Warrior Project provided participants with camelbacks. Thank you!

Again, a huge shout out to our partners over at the National Parks Conservation Association who helped make this possible!

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