As an AmeriCorps VISTA member, I was tasked with participating in direct service on Monday, the sixteen-year anniversary of 9/11. VISTAs specialize in indirect service and capacity building, so I knew this was going to be different from the rest of my year of service. After an unsuccessful search for options through UConn and the surrounding area, I asked Meaghan if she knew of any, thinking it would go nowhere. That’s where I was wrong. She had ideas, and lots of them. It all started with an hour-long conversation the Thursday evening before 9/11 and a late-night email to the BRAVE team. It turned into an amazing four-day whirlwind of nonstop planning, frequent phone calls, almost a hundred emails, many important conversations, and a good amount of driving all over the place.
We decided this effort was going to support a program called Forgotten Heroes - Homes for the Brave, which is a community-based transitional home in Bridgeport for female veterans and their families. It is the only one of its kind in Connecticut. On Monday, we set up a table on UConn’s Fairfield Way to hand out ribbons and start a conversation about 9/11. Humans who stopped by signed a card that would later go to the veterans and talked with us about what the day means to them. That night, BRAVE reflected on the experience and had a friendly competition to see which team could make the most PB&J sandwiches in thirty minutes. I don’t know if there was a clear winner, but I can tell you that 135 sandwiches were made, and along with the extra PB&J supplies, the card, two bags of feminine hygiene products, a donation jar, and a Keurig, were dropped off to the veterans on Tuesday morning.
I traveled down to Bridgeport with Molly, one of our mentoring interns, and it was an amazing experience. The staff at Homes for the Brave were very thankful for our contributions and the veterans Molly and I happened to meet on the way in were so friendly. Forgotten Heroes will be sending me a thank you email, which I will be sure to share with all of you. They even invited BRAVE to visit the female veterans, so stay tuned for more info because I will certainly be staying in touch with them!
Thank you to those who donated supplies and time. BRAVE interns, BRAVE team leaders, and UConn BRAVE chapter members, I could not have done this without you. Also, thank you Meaghan for your ideas, passion, and dedication to this spontaneous event that I doubt many other VISTAs could have pulled off so smoothly. I could not ask for a better family of humans. I am truly honored to be your AmeriCorps VISTA this year. Stay awesome!