GVSU helping military veterans through United Way project

A volunteer from GVSU helps spruce up the yard of a local military veteran.
Volunteers from GVSU will help in the Heart of West Michigan United Way's United Project, helping local military veterans with home improvement projects.
Image credit - Amanda Pitts

A group of volunteers from Grand Valley will spend their Friday helping a local military veteran spruce up his home and yard. 

Volunteers and staff from the Office of Student Life and the Secchia Military and Veterans Resource Center will participate in the Heart of West Michigan United Way’s Operation United project, marking the second year of Grand Valley’s involvement. 

Operation United helps military veterans or their family members with assistance around their homes, usually with yardwork or basic landscaping. 

“At the most fundamental, this is an opportunity to serve those who have served us,” said Melissa Baker-Boosamra, associate director at the Office of Student Life. “These are the people who put their lives on the line for our freedoms, so this is a very small way for us to say thank you.”

Last year, more than 300 volunteers from 15 Grand Rapids-area organizations, including Grand Valley, participated in the project. 

“Grand Valley has been a longtime partner with United Way, both in terms of running a campaign and volunteering,” said Maribeth Groen, director of marketing and communications at Heart of West Michigan United Way. “We were looking for teams and Grand Valley stepped up. It was a really good fit with them, and the work that they do with veterans.”

This year’s event was scheduled for April 28, which coincided with Commencement ceremonies. Baker-Boosamra said the United Way offered to organize a separate project for GVSU’s involvement. 

“(The United Way) basically came back to us and said we’d be happy to make something happen for your team,” Baker-Boosamra said.  

Groen said the day is a favorite one for her, watching the bonds between the volunteers and veterans develop over the hours of work.

“Soon after COVID, the older veterans had been isolated for so long,” Groen said. For them to have volunteers come out and have someone to talk to, they were just so happy and overwhelmed by these groups coming out. It really lifted their spirits.” 

Last year, Grand Valley helped homeowner Jill Alley, who was very grateful for the help, particularly after dealing with a number of health challenges.

“This is just overwhelming to me, the thought that there’s all of these people helping,” she said in 2022.


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