The U.S. Navy sailed into the Twin Cities for “Navy Week” in mid-July, and they were everywhere—diving into aquariums, skydiving into parks, performing concerts. And we were lucky enough to have a big team of Sailors spend some time volunteering at our Minneapolis ReStore home improvement outlet.
“The purpose of Navy Week is to share the Navy story with people who might not have access,” said Lieutenant Bridget Mitchell, who organized the group of volunteers at the ReStore. Each year, the Navy spends several months hosting Navy Weeks in different cities around the U.S., where Sailors volunteer, conduct demonstrations, and hold events throughout the week.
“Navy Week is also a great way for Reservists to come in and serve their time,” Bridget added. One of the Reservists who volunteered at the Minneapolis ReStore on July 21 is AW01(NAC/AW) Stephanie Heu.
Stephanie served in Active Duty for six years, and has been in the Navy Reserves for the last nine months. This was her first time participating in Navy Week, and she loved it. Earlier in the week, along with other Sailors, she served and ate a meal with families at the Ronald McDonald House, and was impressed by the resilience of the children she met who were battling life-threatening illnesses.
When Stephanie came to volunteer at the ReStore, she was also impressed by the mission of Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity.
“Habitat’s homeownership program is really cool because the qualifications include completing service hours and training,” Stephanie said. “And everything is continuously giving back like a big loop, like sales at the ReStores supporting the mission.”
There were both local and out-of-state Sailors volunteering with Stephanie. She didn’t know anyone else when she came, but that didn’t matter.
“Our uniform’s on and we’re here for a mission, so we’re good to go,” she said. “It’s easy for us to click and get the job done.”
And they got a lot of jobs done for the Minneapolis ReStore in a short amount of time. Their bright yellow Navy t-shirts could be seen dotted throughout the store—somebody sweeping, somebody organizing hardware supplies, a couple people huddling around a broken washing machine, folks cutting wood with a circular saw.
“Anytime you work with the men and woman of the military they do exceptional work,” said Gary Vanderbush, Manager for the Minneapolis ReStore. “When they show up to volunteer they have such an amazing driven attitude. They accomplish so much for us that I wish they could volunteer every week.”
Among the many other tasks the Sailors completed, Gary had a special project set aside for them: they cut enough wood pieces that will easily fit together to build dozens of birdhouses. Some of the birdhouses will be sold as kits to customers; others will be put together and painted by artistic volunteers for a silent auction fundraiser. The Sailors were pretty proud of their beautiful birdhouses, and they'll raise a lot of money for the mission.
For Sailors, home might look a little different at times. It could be wherever they're stationed, whether on land or sea. Stephanie spent four years of Active Duty in Hawaii, and has developed strong relationships in her Navy family that will endure no matter where she calls home.
“Minnesota is my home base, but it can also be anywhere my friends and family are,” she said. We’re grateful for the Navy’s help in our mission to ensure everyone has a safe, decent, affordable place to call home. Go Navy!