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AmeriCorps VISTA Member Leads Operation Honor Corps to Victory April 29, 2013

Posted by servicecorpsnews in Accomplishment Spotlight.
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Founded in 2008, Blue Star Families hasWendy-Spencer,-Michelle-VaughnWEB rapidly emerged as a prominent and visible organization serving the military community. It has attracted the attention of public figures such as first lady Michelle Obama and has become an integral partner to the White House’s Joining Forces military and veteran support initiative.

A signature program of Blue Star Families (BSF) is Operation Honor Corps. The program is managed by Michelle Vaughn, an AmeriCorps VISTA member serving Blue Star Families through the American Legion Auxiliary Call to Service Corps.

“When I first got here, [Operation Honor Corps] was pretty basic,” Vaughn said. “It just tracked hours, which didn’t really produce tangible results.”

Since she has taken the charge of the project, Operation Honor Corps has transformed into a robust tool to recruit, measure, record and advertise the contributions of volunteers nationwide.

There are three major components of Operation Honor Corps. The first involves the “Honor Wall,” which serves as a visual representation of the Honor Corps ethos. The wall is set up and staffed by Michelle Vaughn at events throughout Washington, D.C. “Honor Cards” are circulated at Honor Wall events. In the cards, attendees can pledge service hours for the coming year and record their particular service areas of interest (such as military families, veterans, or homelessness and others). These pledged hours are later aggregated and recorded on the Joining Forces website and the Honor Wall. Recent events to feature the Honor Wall include the White House Holiday Tour, the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service on the National Mall, and the American Legion Auxiliary’s Washington DC Conference.

The second major component of Operation Honor Corps involves coordination with partner organizations in support of major service projects.  Operation Honor Corps is currently engaged in four collaborative projects including the National Military Family Association’s “MyMilitaryLife” smartphone app.

The final component of Operation Honor Corps involves the collection of pledged volunteer hours from organizations. These hours are aggregated and highlighted on the Joining Forces website. Once a month, Vaughn discusses the efforts of a high-achieving organization in the monthly Operation Honor Corps newsletter, which she writes, organizes and distributes.

Vaughn’s success with Operation Honor Corps will likely remain her most enduring legacy as an AmeriCorps VISTA. However, her favorite project so far remains a Christmas party she organized at Walter Reed.

“Close to 200 veterans and families came out,” she said. “We had a Santa Claus, and every kid walked away with a Christmas present. It was a great day for our wounded warriors.”

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