The Mission Continues 9/11 Day of Service on Ellis Island

A large group of members from "The Mission Continues" pose for a photograph.
Members from "A Mission Continues" and National Park Service employees pose on Ellis Island.

NPS photo

On a beautiful September morning the ferry pulled into the dock at Ellis Island. About a hundred passengers--all clad in blue tee shirts--seemed to disembark with an unusual sense of purpose. They all looked as if they were on a mission. They were.

The Mission Continues, a national nonprofit, teamed up with the National Park Service (NPS) for a Day of Service Project at Ellis Island on September 11, 2017. The Mission Continues empowers veterans to find purpose through community impact while they adjust to life back home. It was the second year of the new partnership. Last year was such a success, and the Ellis Island project was so popular with the veterans, that the volunteer roster increased from 80 slots to 115 to accommodate the demand.

There was a lot to accomplish. Soon after arriving, volunteers were picking up tools to get the job done: brushes and rollers to paint exhibit rooms and towers in the National Museum of Immigration; pry bars, saws, and sledgehammers to demolish a wooden entrance ramp that had outlived its purpose; pitchforks and rakes to lay down much-needed mulch around trees and planting beds on the island. Others used loppers and scythes to mow down an invasive weed on a section of the island.

In an explosive burst of effort and determination, the volunteers completed the day’s mission in a short four-hour window. Jon Stewart, former host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, jumped in to lend a hand. The comedian was no joke on the business end a four-foot crow bar, quickly dispatching a section of wooden ramp his crew was assigned to demolish. A long-time supporter of The Mission Continues, Stewart addressed the gathering of veterans to tell them how personally gratifying it was to work side-by-side with them. "Having a chance to volunteer on Ellis Island was a moving experience," Steward told the veterans, "because my grandparents had immigrated through these doors to the United States. They were part of a wave of immigration that made this country so great.”

Marvin Cadet, project specialist for The Mission Continues, observed, “The chance to hold a 9/11 Day of Service on Ellis Island is very special to us. To be able to feel the history here and look across the water to see the powerful symbols of the World Trade Center and the Statue of Liberty really underscore some important reasons why many of our veterans stepped up to serve. We are grateful for the partnership we have developed with the National Park Service and hope that it will continue well into the future.”

"We are immensely proud to partner with the Mission Continues,” said Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island Superintendent John Piltzecker. “We are all so impressed by their dedication, drive, and professionalism. It is difficult to express in words the gratitude and respect we hold for these volunteers, their service to the nation, and for continuing The Mission in our national parks.”