I felt a pull to contribute to a solution to the challenges that the men and women who had served after 9/11 were facing upon their return. I’m privileged now to work alongside great people at The Mission Continues. I still reflect on my decision to leave the military, but am continuing to serve in new ways now.
Location: New York, New York
Profession: President, The Mission Continues
What was your first exposure to philanthropy?:
When I was in junior high school, I participated in the Appalachian Service project with a youth group. We went for a week to a remote area of West Virginia, and lived in a school gymnasium at nights while we worked on homes during the day. My small group worked on a shanty that housed a family of four – no running water, no electricity, no roads. This was my first exposure to abject poverty and the often unseen reality that people live very differently in this country. I realized that most Americans think that poverty is a third-world issue. It hit me over the head, as a 9th grader, that this was actually an issue we had at home too.
Tell me more about how you devote your days to The Mission Continues?:
We are an organization that empowers returning military veterans to serve their country again, after taking off their uniforms. Veterans possess a desire, and a need, to continue to serve. They seek new missions, a sense of purpose, and the camaraderie the found during their military service. We believe that the issues our communities face provide a myriad of opportunities to find all of those things. This model has reciprocal impact on both the veterans who are serving again and the communities in which they serve. Veterans are improving their own success in reintegrating back home while helping their neighbors in unique ways, whether it’s combating chronic homelessness, protecting the environment, mentoring kids, or helping people with disabilities.
Tell us more about your path to The Mission Continues.
I come from a military family, so I knew the virtues of military service from a young age. I went to West Point and served in the Army as a helicopter pilot in places like Korea and Central America and Bosnia. After 8 years, I made a decision to leave the military, and decided to go to graduate school. But during that decision-making process, 9/11 happened and the world changed. I resolved to stay on the course I had chosen, but have always reflected on that decision.
After graduate school, I spent time in consulting. I didn’t find the profit-driven side of consulting fulfilling, and wanted to do work that was more motivated by social impact. I joined the social sector practice at McKinsey and ultimately had the chance to serve the DC Public School system as Michelle Rhee’s administration was ramping up. I was drawn to the passion and drive of that team and the educational reform movement. So I left McKinsey and spent 3 years on the recruiting team for Teach For America, asking college kids to apply their desire to serve kids in low-income communities
But I still felt unsettled by the disconnect I had in my own path of service since 9/11. I felt a pull to contribute to a solution to the challenges that the men and women who had served after 9/11 were facing upon their return. I’m privileged now to work alongside great people at The Mission Continues. I still reflect on my decision to leave the military, but am continuing to serve in new ways now.
Can you share a story to illustrate the impact of your work?:
We run a nationwide program that challenges veterans to serve for 6 months tackling a community need – perhaps working with the needy or the homeless or the disadvantaged. Every quarter, we bring roughly 100 of our newest participants to 3-day weekend of team-building and community service. In April, we held one of these events in St. Louis, and conducted a large service project in North St. Louis. The project site was a 90-acre educational nature facility that serves the kids of the Ferguson/Florissant school district.
So, here we were, 150 veterans and community members on a bright and sunny Saturday afternoon, in the heart of a community that had recently experienced severe discord and suffered from decades of inequality. This display of unity was uplifting. These veterans erected a greenhouse, laid a boardwalk around a pond, renovated the barn, built outdoor classrooms, cleared brush and debris, and created a place that kids would be excited to learn. It was just one afternoon, but this represents the potential that veterans have to contribute to the renewal and strength of communities nationwide.
Do you have a philanthropic role model?:
I get inspired by social entrepreneurs who have gone all-in to pursue their passion. In particular, I’m really drawn to individuals and teams who are committed to exposing and combating the the barriers to opportunity in this country. Fortunately, our work cuts across many issue areas, and I get to meet lots of people like that. I am inspired by veterans who have said that impact their community is important to them. Aspects of all of these people creates the fabric of a philanthropic leader that inspires me.
How can people participate in The Mission Continues?:
We need community members to serve with our teams of veterans and help provide them opportunities to serve. Whether it’s in the Bronx or in Phoenix or in DC or in Seattle, we have non-veterans who have partnered with us and served alongside us. It is important for a veteran’s transition home to build social connections to have a new team and a new tribe. We believe that service opportunities are the chance to build new tribes. Serve alongside us. Host one of our veterans in your organization for a 6-month fellowship. Make a financial contribution to our work (we are 100% privately-funded).