April 29th, 2024 by

What is Operation United?

Berger Chevrolet is a proud sponsor of Operation United. Operation United is an annual event hosted by Heart of West Michigan United Way (HWMUW) as an opportunity to give back to veterans in the West Michigan community. This year there were over 250 volunteers participating in this event across Kent County! This event mobilizes volunteers to recognize those who have sacrificed so much for our country. Operation United aims to help veterans and active military families, with a focus on those with disabilities and seniors in Kent County. 

So, how does the Operation United program work? Veterans in Kent County can apply or are nominated to be part of the program. Because there are so many applicants, each veteran is only able to participate once and there is no cost to the veteran or their families to participate in Operation United. Veterans and their families are welcome to participate and Nominators are also welcome to participate in projects or can simply spend time with their nominee while volunteers begin outdoor improvements around the veteran’s home. 

Heart of West Michigan United Way’s Volunteer Center is tasked with matching each veteran or family with a group of volunteers to help with outdoor improvements such as yardwork, minor outdoor repairs, and landscaping. These home improvements are intended to make the veterans’ homes enjoyable, safer, and more accessible. Some Operation United projects include tree planting, lawn mowing, mulching, debris removal, deck repair, power washing, and even stair and ramp building! The good news for volunteers? Each volunteer’s strengths are considered when pairing them with these tasks. 

All volunteers age 18 and older and of all skill levels are encouraged to participate in this event. Due to the scale and scope of this volunteer event, volunteering is limited to groups. HWMUW’s Volunteer Center will match each volunteer with a project that best fits your volunteer group and provide you with all of the details you need to participate in Operation United. These include the home address of where you’ll be volunteering, information about the veteran and/or their family, site photos, and information about the work to be completed. If a member of your volunteer team has experience in yardwork, landscaping, or home repair, they may be a good candidate to be the Site Leader for your team. Site teams require a Team Leader to be the primary contact between their team and United Way. Groups can range in size from six to 20 volunteers. These site teams must commit to a full or half-day site during Operation United. Volunteer groups who sponsor a home will receive priority placement. 

While there is no cost for volunteers to participate in Operation United, HWMUW encourages these groups to consider sponsoring a home or lending tools to help cut down on repair costs. As an example, volunteers could bring shovels or rakes with them to the event.


Veterans and Their Family

Are you or someone you know a veteran, military spouse, surviving spouse, or an active duty service member whose home would be safer, more accessible, or more enjoyable with a few outdoor improvements such as landscaping or yard clean up? Heart of West Michigan United Way’s Career Center identifies future Operation United projects through an application process. The qualifications to apply are that the participant must be a veteran, active duty service member, military spouse, or surviving spouse (proof of service may be requested). They must also be a renter or homeowner residing in Kent County. Some examples of projects to be completed include but are not limited to leaf and brush removal, fence repair, power washing, planting and flowerbeds, spot painting and staining, staircase repair, trimming, weeding, gutter cleaning, and debris removal. 

Click here to learn more and apply for next year’s Operation United. 


Berger Chevrolet: Operation United

Berger Chevrolet acted as an Ambassador for Operation United. We started the day at Veterans Memorial Park in downtown Grand Rapids to enjoy coffee from veteran-based nonprofit, HAS HEART while we kicked off the day with the Home Depot team and Salvation Army. We visited four different homes where we were tasked with greeting the sponsoring team of volunteers, thanked each veteran for their service, presented them with a gift, and chatted with them about their experiences. 

Our first stop was to visit Nicholas J. As we approached the property we could see that the Union Bank team was hard at work mowing the front lawn, staining the steps to the house, and digging out a fire pit in the backyard. Nicholas served in the United States Army from 2004-2008 where he was a mechanic and “worked on anything with wheels”.

Our second stop was to see Steve C. When we arrived the Consumers Energy team was outside the home tending to the flower beds in the front yard and digging out room for paving stones in the backyard. Steve and his wife are very proud of their beautiful home and community. They told us about how close-knit they are with their neighbors and about how a few of them will take turns clearing snow from the driveway and mowing their yard.

In the afternoon we stopped to visit with Jack R. and his wife of 57 years! When we arrived, 93-year-old Jack was hard at work mowing his lawn on his Cub Cadet riding mower! He couldn’t just sit by while the Fifth Third team was helping clean up in the backyard. Jack regaled us with stories of bootcamp and his experience in the Air Force. Jack was responsible for repairing bullet holes in planes when they came back from their missions. He was and still is a jokester! He shared with us the time that he tried to convince the Navy to let him take one of their planes but later decided he wouldn’t have had a hanger to hide it in!🤣 After his time in the military, Jack returned to West Michigan where he actually worked at Berger Chevrolet for a bit doing body work, and later owned his own automotive repair shop called Russ’s Auto Body. Before we left, both Jack and his wife took pride in showing us his Air Force photo and the Challenge Coin he received from HWMUW. 

Our final stop during Operation United was to visit Dwight S. Dwight served in the United States Army, or as he called it, “the best branch”.😉 And come to find out, Dwight also used to work in Berger’s Used Sales Department as a Sales Consultant in the 80s! Talk about a small world. He actually used to work with a few of our employees who still work here at Berger and continues to service his Chevy Colorado with us as well! 

We were so honored to give back to those who served our country during Operation United this year. We are so proud of the West Michigan community for rallying together to provide outdoor improvements, increase safety/accessibility, and recognize those who have sacrificed for us. To learn more about Heart of West Michigan United Way’s Operation United click here.

Berger Operation United Team

Berger Operation United Team


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