yard of home with porch in background, yard sign Operation United in blue in front

Operation United: Student veterans, Student Affairs staff volunteer time to improve veteran's yard

A Laker crew of student veterans and Division of Student Affairs staff members volunteered their time May 10 to improve the backyard and sand the deck of a Grand Rapid house owned by an Air Force veteran who is a single mother.

The project was part of the Heart of West Michigan United Way's Operation United, an annual event that mobilizes volunteers to assist veterans and active military families with house or yard projects. 

Melissa Baker-Boosamra, associate director of Student Life for civic engagement and assessment, coordinated the Grand Valley volunteers with help from Shane Scherer, director of the Secchia Military and Veteran Resource Center.

from the backyard, a two-story house in background, two people working in the yard talk to each other
Shane Scherer, '11, director of the Secchia Military and Veteran Resource Center, left, and Jenny Hall-Jones, vice president for Student Affairs, right, work behind a Grand Rapids home during Operation United.
student in white sweatpants and blue t-shirt with GV logo and I VETS on it holds a bag of mulch to spread
Alex-Mari Ford spreads mulch behind a Grand Rapids home during Operation United. Ford is a senior studying allied health sciences and serves on Student Senate.

Eden Akins, a natural resources and environmental management major, said he was glad to help a veteran. Akins has served with a Michigan Army National Guard unit in Bay City for nearly four years.

"Shane told us about this opportunity and I wanted to do this," Akins said, while pulling weeds in preparation for a layer of mulch. "It's nice to give back to the community."

student with rake clearing weeds in a backyard with trees on left
Graduate student David Wier clears weeds behind a Grand Rapids home during Operation United. Wier is pursuing a master's degree in social work.

Hannah Plumb, volunteer center specialist for United Way, said the house in northeast Grand Rapids was among 23 projects in Kent County that were completed during Operation United. Plumb, who earned a GVSU degree in nonprofit administration in 2015, said Home Depot sponsors the event by providing mulch, other landscaping materials and yard tools.

Plumb said the homeowner said she wanted to make her backyard more livable for her two young children. 


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