For the third year in Philadelphia, veterans who serve as Travis Manion Foundation Character Does Matter mentors joined teams of students, first-responders, active duty military, veterans, families of fallen military, and inspired civilians completing service projects in the Point Breeze neighborhood for an Operation Legacy service project. More than 100 volunteers participated, along with 12 civic/community groups, and additional veteran service organizations Team Red White and Blue, and Team Rubicon. The highlight of the day was a special visit from former President George W. Bush, who got into the mix by working alongside Gold Star families and veterans to help plant more than 20 trees, and to give a fresh coat of paint to the local rec center. President Bush was in town to accept the Liberty Medal, along with his wife Laura, at the Constitution Center on Sunday night, and yet took time from this special day to be of service to the community.
Dozens of volunteer sub-projects exemplified good character and a commitment to service, through painting, cleaning, weeding, mulching, debris removal, and more, to renovate and beautify the area surrounding Wharton Square. The project was dedicated to fallen heroes MAJ John Pryor, US Army, KIA Iraq 2008; CPL Gennaro Pellegrini, US Army/Philadelphia Police Department, KIA Iraq 2005; LT Demetrius Frison, US Army, KIA Afghanistan 2011.
The Point Breeze neighborhood is one of Philly's most historically undeserved communities and highest crime communities. Local residents serve as volunteer power through most of community problems with mass service events like this; rallying hundreds of volunteers to clean parks, clear illegal dumping from alleys, conduct community health fairs, and rehab city owned facilities with no budgets of their own. The biggest local partners are High Schools, whose students are mentored through TMF's Character Does Matter initiative. TMF also partners with a dozen different local civic organizations and Philly NPOs, four different local military units, and a few other volunteer organizations, all of whom are out to clean and green in a community with many needs while honoring the legacies of our fallen comrades.
The Point Breeze project was organized by community members, including U.S. Army Reservist Charlie Elison who serve as local volunteer project leader, is a resident of Point Breeze, and is the Northeast Programs Manager for TMF.