400 veterans and civilians rally to make over MDC Powder Valley Nature Center during service event

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Saint Louis
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KIRKWOOD, Mo. — A mission that might have been impossible, is now accomplished, thanks to a hardy group of veterans and civilian volunteers numbering in the hundreds. The 4th Annual Summer Service Slam, which took place at the Missouri Department of Conservation's Powder Valley Conservation Nature Center in Kirkwood July 12, was an overwhelming success, said Nature Center Manager Tamie Yegge.

The Summer Service Slam was a partnership between the Missouri Department of Conservation, The Mission Continues, and FOX Sports Midwest. The event brought together more than 400 volunteers, both armed-services veterans and civilians from the local community, for four hours of service work that amounted to an extreme makeover of the nature center.

The Summer Service Slam is a yearly project of The Mission Continues and FOX Sports Midwest. The Mission Continue is a nonprofit organization that redeploys veterans to serve in their local communities on new missions that harness their skills and dedication. The goal of The Mission Continues is to empower veterans to find new ways to serve, easing their transition back to civilian life.

According to Yegge, the nature center was faced with a maintenance and upgrade project list seemingly impossible for the center's limited number of staff to tackle alone. That's when The Mission Continues came to the rescue.

"It was so rewarding to be selected by The Mission Continues and FOX Sports Midwest to be a part of the 2014 Summer Service Slam," Yegge said. "It was heartwarming to see the community pull together with the military veterans to complete work that what would otherwise take years to accomplish."

Volunteers of all ages and backgrounds rallied starting at 8 a.m. Saturday morning in the nature center's parking lot. Upon checking in, they received their assignments from team leaders. After introductory remarks and an orientation, they grabbed an arsenal of rakes, shovels, hammers, drills, saws, and more and set to work throughout the nature center's 112-acre grounds.

Undeterred by, heat, humidity, and a bit of sweat and hard work, they labored diligently until well past noon. Afterwards, they enjoyed a thank-you lunch and were treated to ice cream courtesy of Here's the Scoop Homemade Ice Cream of Sikeston.

Accomplishments in the four hours included:

  • A complete reconstruction of the pond along the Tanglevine trail;
  • A complete transformation of the outdoor program area including a brand new fire ring, log seating, and a new storage box for supplies;
  • A long overdue and necessary cleaning of the aquarium, waterfall, and wildlife viewing area;
  • The removal of invasive vegetation, such as bush honeysuckle, throughout parts of the area;
  • The building and staining of several trail-side benches;
  • Installation of a rain garden and rain barrel; and
  • Mulching of trail borders, patching of trail areas, and repairing of fences along trails.

"At The Mission Continues, we believe that the legacy of this generation of veterans can be one of service and success" said Meredith Knopp, vice president of Programs at The Mission Continues. "To see the volunteers turn out in such incredible numbers to serve alongside our veterans and make a difference in this community is inspiring, and we cannot thank them enough."

In association with the FOX Supports nationwide effort to benefit military veterans, media partner FOX Sports Midwest was on hand to produce a feature story that will run during a Cardinals Baseball game. FOX Sports Midwest host and reporter Jim Hayes traveled every corner of the event to cover the story and speak with staff and volunteers.

"The level of enthusiasm and the incredible work accomplished Saturday was truly impressive," Hayes said. "Thank you to the veterans and hundreds of volunteers for your great work."

The FOX Sports Midwest video feature can be viewed at foxsports.com/midwest/video?vid=313362499623.

Yegge said she has already talked with a number of regular visitors who have stated how impressed they are with the results.

"We can't express enough gratitude to The Mission Continues, FOX Sports Midwest, and all the volunteers who worked that day," Yegge said. "They all have helped us continue our mission, helping people discover nature."

Powder Valley Conservation Nature Center is owned and operated by the Missouri Department of Conservation. It is located at 11715 Cragwold Road, near the intersection of I-270 and I-44. Those interested in finding out more can also call the nature center at 314-301-1500.