Serving Those Who Served

Teen leaders help make house a home for Army veteran

Each year, when the Next Generation Leaders (NGLs) arrive at our Boston headquarters, they fill the building and each department with such incredible energy—and they’re always eager to get to work right away. Unlike typical internships that involve menial tasks like filing, an NGL’s role is meant to be challenging and fulfilling. This year, as soon as their internships started, we challenged the group with organizing a particularly complex community service event. Not only did NGL Marlene Price learn some valuable lessons during the project, but she was also tasked with writing this article as an intern in the Creative Marketing department. Marlene, I’m glad you’re keeping busy!

Up and Out: Reflections from a Next Generation Leader
by Marlene Price

Community service is something I’ve always held near and dear to my heart; after being a Big Sister for four years, it is safe to say that community outreach is my passion. However, helping turn a house into a home was new for me.

As a Next Generation Leader (NGL) at Grand Circle Travel, I am one of ten interns working for the company this summer with hopes of growing as a person via Grand Circle’s six core values: Open and Courageous Communication, Teamwork, Speed, Risk-Taking, Thriving in Change, and Quality. One of the highpoints of this internship will be a trip to Africa to gain worldly experience, while participating in community service projects.

While giving back to the world we travel is a big theme for Grand Circle Foundation, we give back locally, too. One of the Foundation’s biggest projects in Boston is the Up and Out Program, where each month associates volunteer to assist a veteran in his/her move out of the New England Shelter for Homeless Veterans (NECHV) and into a new apartment. Often, these veterans move in with little to nothing besides their clothes, so we make sure that their houses are turned into homes by providing basic furnishings. This particular month, we chose Justin, a 28-year-old veteran who had gotten an apartment after being in the shelter form some time.

Justin, center, with James Pina, Mike Davis, and Shantal Solomon, from left, reacts to how great his new apartment looks.

Justin had served in the U.S. Army since he was 19 years old, and completed three tours back-to- back with the same unit. After being stationed in North Carolina, he moved to Virginia to be an instructor. After his last tour was in Afghanistan, he lived in California until he was discharged in 2011. Justin’s journey from the Army to NECHV may not have been an easy one, but regardless he maintains a gracious presence.

The other nine interns and I were left in charge, and given just three weeks to complete this project from the ground up. Davina Tran was chosen to spearhead this venture, and she touched base with us about our roles. Since Justin didn’t have many belongings besides his clothing, we all had to tackled the task of furnishing his apartment.

I wish I could say it was easy, but we hit many speed bumps came on the road to moving Justin in by June 29. For example, when the group arrived at Justin’s apartment on the night before the move, we noticed we’d bought a lot of extra things. Justin’s just one guy; he wouldn’t need enough silverware to last three weeks without washing. We saved some money by returning unnecessary items in exchange for things he actually needed—like a fan. At the end, my fellow NGLs and I were able to pull it together so that the move could go as planned. The funny thing about these types of challenges is that you tend to see your behaviors more clearly. For example, I learned that I become overwhelmed easily and need clear, concise directions to be effective in any setting.

The day of its big reveal, the apartment needed a few smaller items that were easy to find. Shantal and I went to the grocery store to stock his kitchen with his favorites, bacon and eggs. We made sure his snack collection would be something that elementary students dreamed about.

When Justin walked into his new apartment, he was overcome with excitement and appreciation. Going from living in a shelter to having a place to call his own, and seeing it fully decorated really made him happy. Whatever stress that we felt over the last couple of weeks was easily wiped away by the smile on his face. Our final gift to Justin was a backpack filled with school supplies he will need when he stars at the University of Massachusetts Boston as a physical therapy major.

With a few cookies and plastic cups of soda, we toasted to Justin’s new beginning and the end of our hard work. We gave the keys back to their owner, and I suddenly felt like a guest in somebody’s home. It never felt so great to be entertained.

Next Generation Leaders and Justin toast a job well done—with Sprite soda in hand. From left, Shantal Solomon, Paige Poupart, William Fernandes, Davina Tran, Marlene Price, Justin, Taylah Henry, Jamal Adan, Mike Davis and James Pina.