In military parlance, the phrase Charlie Mike translates as an order to “continue the mission.” For the men and women of The Mission Continues, it’s the continuation of an arc of volunteer service that began in the military and marches on today in neighborhoods and cities across the country.
Over the course of the year, The Mission Continues awarded 366 fellowships to deserving veterans who deployed to organizations including the American Cancer Society in Chicago, Rainier Therapeutic Riding near Seattle, and the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York City.
Our Service Platoon Program also continued to expand across the country in 2015, growing by over 20 platoons and actively serving in 36 cities across 21 states and Washington, D.C.
Along the way, we learned more about our veterans and how we can better serve them too. Highlighting this effort was the release of a new study on the women who fill our programs’ ranks. The results shed light on the challenges and opportunities facing women veterans, and the unique value that our programs have in restoring a sense of purpose and in recognizing their service.
2015 was a transformative year at The Mission Continues, and most importantly, in the lives of the veterans we serve and in the communities they call home. Together, our veterans are pursuing new missions, and with your support will continue to report for duty for years to come.
“My fellowship helped me find a new path by connecting my passion for helping others and giving back to my community with my leadership skills and military training.”
Tonya retired from the military in 2013 after 20 years of service in the United States Navy. A lifetime of purpose suddenly gone, her transition grew more difficult through a divorce from her husband and the bittersweet graduation of her only child from high school.
Faced with these challenges, she searched for a new mission and found one through The Mission Continues Fellowship Program. She chose to serve her fellowship as a computer literacy and GED math instructor at a center for formerly incarcerated women in Jacksonville, Florida.
Tonya worked one-on-one with dozens of women throughout her fellowship to help them achieve a new start in life. The experience provided Tonya with a new beginning too – the women’s center created a staff position just so she could stay on after her fellowship was completed.
“I truly believe that had it not been for The Mission Continues, I would not be doing what I am doing today - helping others better themselves for their families.”
“Join The Mission Continues. You’ll find what’s missing. I know I did.”
Richard Krykew was once again on a mission. He had identified the challenge and was equipped with the hardware necessary to complete the task. His team: a group of five 13-year-old girls. His objective: to build a doghouse.
He had made the journey from an infantryman patrolling the streets of Fallujah, Iraq, to a project leader at a schoolyard in Los Angeles. The road in between was not always clear, and its destination was often uncertain, but one common trait always persisted: a desire to serve others.
Richard joined The Mission Continues in 2014 as a Fellow, and on this particular day in 2015, was volunteering with a local Service Platoon. The team of veterans had joined forces with a class of middle school students to build doghouses, which would be used to support local animal shelters. Despite the façade of manicured nails and high-pitched giggles, the girls on Richard’s team meant business and together they got the job done.
When asked why he continues to serve, the answer for Richard is easy.
“It's the children - it’s awesome to see the kids come out and participate and join a team of veterans in the community.”
The sight of Richard leading a team of volunteers clad in The Mission Continues’ blue is now common. Soon after completing his fellowship, Richard took on the responsibility of leading Los Angeles 3rd Service Platoon, and helped expand The Mission Continues’ footprint in the neighborhoods and schools of South LA.
The path has not always been clear for Richard, but he now has a new mission and a new team. He also has one simple message for any veteran who thinks their sense of purpose is a thing of the past.
The Women of The Mission Continues
We set out in 2015 to learn more about how women veterans experience reintegration and why they are coming to The Mission Continues in such high numbers. The result, Her Mission Continues: Service and Reintegration Amongst Post-9/11 Women Veterans, sheds light on a generation of women veterans who are proud of their service yet have encountered challenges and obstacles unique from their male peers.
The good news is that our programs are making a difference:
- 94% of our Alumni reported that they felt comfortable and included within The Mission Continues culture, compared to 19% in civilian culture as a whole.
- 90% reported that they felt respected and valued as a veteran compared with 37% in civilian culture.
The findings underscore the unique value our programs offer for women veterans by not only helping them reach their goals, but offering a renewed sense of respect and recognition as well. Furthermore, the study is just the first step in a much larger effort to better serve the women of The Mission Continues in 2016 and beyond.
Kelso Elementary School
Built in the 1950’s in the south side of Houston, Texas, Kelso Elementary School serves more than 450 students ranging from early education learners to the fifth grade. More than 90% of students come from economically disadvantaged households and nearly half are English language learners.
Creating a safe, welcoming and inspiring environment for students is a priority for the school’s staff and administration. By the 2014-2015 school year however, the building physically reflected its mid-century roots. The walls were scratched, tables were worn, the library wasn’t functional, and the grounds featured few outdoor facilities for students to use.
“I didn’t know who to call,” reflected Principal Connie Smith, “but then I received an email out of the blue saying that we were a finalist for a project with The Mission Continues.” Then on Saturday, January 24, 2015, a team of more than 150 veterans and volunteers arrived to tackle their new mission: revitalize Kelso Elementary School.
By day’s end, Mission Continues Fellows, Service Platoon members and community volunteers had built new learning spaces and gardens, repainted much of the facility, and renovated the library.
“When I saw the busses pull up to little old Kelso Elementary and that sea of blue walk off of them, it was overwhelming and surreal. As a veteran I remember the feeling of teamwork and knowing that you were never alone. This project brought that home again.”
Little Creek Nature Area
Little Creek Nature Area is an oasis of forest in the urban sprawl of North St. Louis. The 97-acre outdoor educational facility is owned and operated by the Ferguson-Florissant School District, and serves K-12 students from the surrounding communities.
After years of wear-and-tear the facility was in need of upgrades and improvements. In stepped a team of veterans and community volunteers in the form of the St. Louis Service Platoon and 2015 Bravo Class Fellows and Service Platoon Leaders.
In just one afternoon volunteers built an outdoor-classroom, constructed a greenhouse and boardwalk, removed invasive species and planted new trees.
More importantly, the service project showed the students that a community of veterans, hailing from coast to coast, was invested in their education and success.
The Marcus Foundation
We were thrilled to begin a partnership with The Marcus Foundation in 2015, who joined our family of supporters to sponsor Atlanta 1st Service Platoon. In the first year of the partnership, The Marcus Foundation showed incredible support of our platoon members, encouraging their continued service at different service projects and events held to help improve the community throughout Atlanta.
Our partnership truly blossomed throughout the year, and in December they made a three-year commitment to The Mission Continues to support our work with veterans creating greater community impact in Atlanta with Platoons and Fellows working together. We are truly proud of the first year of this partnership and look forward to the next three, creating greater stories of community impact with veterans at the core of these efforts.
Volunteer hours served by Fellows
and Service Platoon Members in 2015
Kathy French was introduced to The Mission Continues by a colleague in 2009, and joined local volunteers at a Veterans Day event in St. Louis. Kathy came to the first event looking to give back and work side by side with our veterans. What resulted from that first day has been a lifelong friendship with many in the organization and beyond. Kathy enjoyed her experience getting to know our Fellows so much that in 2010 she became part of our giving circle of Fund-A-Fellow donors. She has since funded a Fellow each year for the last six years. Kathy is a true champion of our work and we are proud to have her as part of The Mission Continues family of donors.
In 2015, BAE Systems joined The Mission Continues family of partners and supporters to help empower veterans here at home to have community impact. Not only did BAE Systems sponsor three service platoons in Washington, DC, San Diego, CA and Lowell, MA, they also made an investment in the Mission Continues Fellowship Program helping to support the veterans who were awarded a fellowship in 2015.
BAE Systems continues to look for other ways to connect our missions in empowering our veterans, their spouses and communities across the country. We are proud to call BAE Systems a partner and we look forward to having even greater impact together with veterans and communities in the future.
Team Mission Continues raised over $60,000 through the 2015 Marine Corps Marathon. Leading the effort was Caitlin Lyons, a United States Marine Corps veteran. For Caitlin, covering the 26.2 miles through the streets of Washington, DC and Virginia was the easy part. Her military career was cut short in 2009 after sustaining a lumbar burst fracture while on duty. Doctors predicted that she would never be able to run again – just the right kind of motivation for a Marine. Caitlin finished the marathon as the team’s top fundraiser, bringing in $3,500 through Team Mission Continues’ online fundraising campaign.
“I appreciate The Mission Continues because I can relate to that feeling of wanting to continue to serve, despite no longer being able to do so in the military.”
We believe that financial transparency is paramount to delivering on our promise to empower veterans to find new missions here at home. In addition to an independent financial audit, completed annually, we were also evaluated for the first time in 2015 by Charity Navigator, one of the country’s leading charity-rating organizations. Through Charity Navigator, nonprofit organizations are assessed by measures of “Financial Health” and “Accountability and Transparency.” The Mission Continues received a four-star rating, the highest score available. View The Mission Continues on Charity Navigator.
Our ability to serve our veterans was also strengthened in 2015 by the growth of our staff from 33 fulltime employees in January of 2015 to 48 fulltime employees by year’s end. This growth advanced our team’s ability to improve our programs while enabling future success in 2016 and beyond.
Note: All 2015 expenses were covered by revenue raised within or prior to 2015, and some of the 2015 total revenue was funding booked for future years.
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
Chairman of the Board, Cordia Bancorp
Senior Vice President, SAP National Security Services
Vice Admiral, U.S. Navy (Ret.)
President, The Mission Continues
Vice President, Boeing