Veterans revitalize Westside Atlanta neighborhoods

More than 100 military veterans with The Mission Continues united with Westside Atlanta community leaders and supporting partners on June 9 to kick off Operation Westside Surge. The week-long service marathon aims to revitalize parks, playgrounds, sports facilities and community gardens in Vine City, English Avenue and Castleberry Hill neighborhoods.

The Mission Continues is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization founded in 2007 to provide opportunities for post-9/11 veterans to find purpose at home through community impact.

“The nonprofit was born from the idea that the best way to help veterans when they return home is to engage them to serve others again – this time in their own communities,” said Mary Beth Bruggeman, executive director of Southeast Region and a Marine Corps veteran. “Our model creates a win-win where both veterans and communities benefit. Through volunteerism, veterans gain new skills and connections that help them achieve personal and professional success. Communities see long-term positive effects from having hard-working, highly trained veteran volunteers to help them strategically tackle their toughest challenges.”

Nearly 70 military veterans, worked alongside neighborhood leaders and community partners, like Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, The Home Depot Foundation and the Marcus Foundation.

Volunteers built a cookout area, a space for play equipment and an outdoor shed. They helped the neighbors to transform their park into a more usable and beautiful space at Mattie Freeland Park. Additionally, volunteers performed a variety of tasks across the campus of Truly Living Well’s urban farm including creating an outdoor classroom, a victory garden and shade pavilion, a pathway winding up a steep hillside, building a chicken coop and renovations to the garden area.

Additional projects included creating green spaces on the Atlanta Beltline, revitalized the English Avenue Campus into a community space and volunteering with Quest Veterans Village to motivate veterans working to support other veterans. The projects took place from June 9 - 14.

“Atlanta needs our veteran community to be activated to help solve its problems and lead Atlanta into a bright future. This project is a catalyst and call to action for our local veteran community to take a bigger role in supporting and serving in our communities,” said Marcus Ruzek, program director- Military and Veterans at The Marcus Foundation and an Army veteran. Ruzek worked on the Atlanta Beltline projects.

Aside from Operation Westside Surge, The Mission Continues seeks volunteers for its various monthly events in and around Atlanta’s Westside and in major metro areas across the country.

“Veterans add unparalleled capacity to energize this kind of transformation and manage projects to ensure the change is sustainable,” said Bruggeman. “It allows us to leverage the skills, leadership and training we gained through the military to have a meaningful impact on the home front.”


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