Serving on the COVID front lines

Oct 9, 2020

by Nathan Mallory, USAF veteran, former Platoon Leader & four-time Mass Deployment participant

I am very grateful that I am able to still be working during COVID-19. I work for a non-profit in Pittsburgh called Veterans Leadership Program as their Facilities Manager. We offer services to military Veterans in housing, employment, wellness, and supportive services.

Our housing team does everything around housing: from street homelessness to folks behind on rent, they work beside our Veterans to build a plan to get them into safe and secure housing. We also have a kick ass employment team that works beside unemployed and underemployed veterans with everything from resume writing and reviews, professional clothing, interview training and job fairs. And our Supportive Services team covers tax prep, utilities assistance, food pantry and social connectivity programming,

Finally, there is me, their Facilities Manager. I normally describe my job as support to all the moving parts. I’m wherever anyone needs me. I work with landlords to create leases for our programs and clients, I make sure utility bills get paid on all our shelter units, I manage all repairs on units, comply with VA and HUD inspections… all up until COVID-19 hit.

I’m so grateful to be a part of the VLP team. As we all made plans at the beginning to work remotely, I asked my supervisor what he thought my days should look like, seeing how I can’t work on repairs and not having the 40+ employees coming into the office daily seemed like I was setting up for a pretty slow pace as Facilities Manager working from home.

Well, I was wrong. We saw our services become more valuable than ever. We found that our small emergency pantry grow from 15 people a week requesting food, to now well over 3,000 veterans and military families experiencing food insecurity provided with much-needed food since the beginning of COVID-19. We are building programs for support that have never been before within the bandwidth of VLP. At one point, we ran out of food after a drive-thru food distribution with 350 people served in an hour and a half. The need is endless.

And guess who I asked to help execute the drive thru food bank at VLP? The Mission Continues. Summer Nault, the Platoon Leader for Pittsburgh 1st Platoon is always someone that is willing to rally around anything she can get her hands on. And as we practiced social distancing and with PPE required, we had a few blue shirts come and help.

Seven years ago, I showed up at my first service project in the neighborhood of Hazelwood to work on a house in partnership with Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh. That’s when I got my very FIRST TMC shirt and met some of my best friends for the first time. Over the years, The Mission Continues has always been a pillar to my day.

From looking forward to Mass Deployments or Platoon Leader Summits, to getting creative for some kick ass projects, I’ve always found The Mission Continues to be something I never expected. I truly feel any veteran could benefit from being a part of it. I am an Air Force veteran and got out in 2006, and to be honest, I never really wore the ‘veteran hat’.

Without The Mission Continues, I probably wouldn’t be working where I am, and in all honesty, this COVID-19 readiness game we’re all willfully or unwillfully participating in, service project planning and volunteer recruitment has made me better at my job. As an essential worker, I truly thank The Mission Continues for giving me the opportunity to continue service in my community.

As we reflect on our own self-care plans and offer buddy checks to our friends and families, I want to take the time to truly thank The Mission Continues for giving me such a HUGE family to rely on, whether that is through watching all your amazing posts about virtual meetups or your small group service projects, your TMC tagged posts help, so thank you and keep them comin’. And as we settle into a ‘new normal’ please know that you have a family in blue shirts to reach out to.

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