Veterans on mission to clean up Detroit areas

Kyla Smith
The Detroit News

Detroit — Hundreds of veterans and community volunteers scattered across the grounds of Priest Elementary Tuesday to help transform a dirt lot into a soccer field, breathing life into the surrounding area.

The Mission Continues, a nonprofit that helps veterans adjust to life at home while finding purpose through community impact, has launched Operation Motown Muster, a five-day service project in which veterans from all over the country teamed up to revitalize Detroit neighborhoods in need.

Founded nine years ago, this is the first time the organization has held an event in which veterans traveled from all over to focus on one city.

“Why not start with the hardest place? Although there are other places that are just as hard, we thought Detroit could benefit from the additional help,” said Laura L’Esperance, vice president of brand and communications at the Mission Continues. “When deployed, our veterans helped to build schools and roads, and a lot of those skills, we can use here to help our communities thrive.”

During the Detroit mission, volunteers earlier helped Central High School by refurbishing indoor and outdoor spaces. They also planted trees and flowers in the Osborn Neighborhood. They will soon convert vacant lots into clean community space at Recovery Park.

For the next five years, local veteran volunteers and nonprofits will help to sustain the schools and neighborhoods.

Courtney Sloat, volunteer with the Detroit Service Platoon through the Mission Continues, walked with a stack of five wooden 2x4s over her shoulder Tuesday. The wood would be used to make benches for the playground at Priest Elementary.

“This is my first time ever volunteering with the Platoon, and I’m very humbled to be able to work with a great group of people,” said Sloat, who served four years in the Army. “I’m at a loss for words right now. The work that everyone has put in throughout these five days is truly amazing.”

L’Esperance said being a veteran is not required to join the Detroit Service Platoon. They accept all volunteers.

“We really want people get in the spirit of volunteering and helping one another in the community,” said L’Esperance, who grew up in Detroit but now lives in New York. “The goal is to come and inspire the next generation through service and to keep growing as a unit.”

EJ Delpero, who resides in Washington, D.C., dedicated a week of time to give back to Detroit.

“This has been such a powerful experience. Everyone has been so welcoming and really appreciative of us coming out,” said Delpero, who served in the navy for more than six years. “Detroit is the motherland. I feel such a strong connection here now. The energy here is like no other.”

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