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The Way We Get By

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Support Veterans and Senior Citizens

On call 24 hours a day for the past five years, a group of senior citizens has made history by greeting over 900,000 American troops at a tiny airport in Bangor, Maine. The Way We Get By offers an intimate look at three of these greeters as they confront the universal losses that come with aging and rediscover their reasons for living. Bill Knight, Jerry Mundy and Joan Gaudet (the mother of the filmmaker) find the strength to overcome their personal battles, transform their lives through service and redefine the meaning of community.

The film transcends partisan political debates and reminds viewers of the tremendous power of simple acts of human kindness. Here are some ways that you can support veterans and senior citizens.

1. Inspired by Joan, Jerry and Bill to show your support for the troops? On this interactive map, powered by Create the Good, you can type in your zip code to find volunteering opportunities in your region, state and local community.

2. Go to the Returning Home Project and share your own personal stories.

3. Use a screening of The Way We Get By as a springboard for intergenerational discussions between adult children and elderly parents about health and care issues. Find out how »

4. Publicize work being done by volunteers and/or senior citizens in your community. Share the stories online, on websites like www.pbs.org/pov/waywegetby, with local news outlets or in displays at local gathering spots (such as libraries or restaurants).

5. Toward the end of the film, Bill says, "It's time we realize that we can still be of use in the communities and throughout the nation. There's a whole bunch of other things that's out there that need to be done. We don't have to just be troop greeters. There are plenty of jobs out there that need to be done by volunteers." Brainstorm volunteer tasks or service projects. For help with your brainstorm, check out the following local community groups and national organizations working to support our troops, senior citizens and volunteerism:

Troop Greeting Programs

  • Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (PDF)
    Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) has a rest and recuperation troop greeting program though the North Texas Commission.

  • The Maine Troop Greeters
    The official website of the troop greeters featured in the film offers a brief history of the initiative, news stories about the greeters, thank you letters from soldiers and opportunities to help.

  • Armed Forces Service Center
    The Armed Forces Service Center at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport is a facility for active-duty military personnel, their dependents, activated reservists and national guardsmen. Since 2006, the center has greeted more than 160 flights and its website offers information about troop greeting opportunities.

  • Pease Greeters
    The Pease Greeters are headquartered in Portsmouth, N.H., and the group's website provides a flight hotline number along with incoming flight schedules.

  • USO Operation R&R
    USO in Atlanta, GA, has a volunteer program set up for corporate and civic groups interested in troop greeting.

General Opportunities to Support our Troops

  • The American Legion
    The website of this community service organization offers a wide range of information for and about veterans and active duty personnel, including links to numerous resources and related organizations. Get involved in one of the Legion's many programs.

  • Any Soldier
    Any Soldier Inc. started as a simple family effort to send care packages to deployed soldiers. The effort has now grown to include AnyAirman, AnyMarine, AnySailor and AnyCoastGuardsmen. Interested parties can get mailing addresses of soldiers and learn more about how to send a care package.

  • Give2TheTroops
    Give2TheTroops features annual programs and campaigns, some seasonal and some ongoing, that coordinate citizens to send care packages to soldiers in active duty.

  • Operation Homefront
    Operation Homefront provides emergency assistance and morale to troops, to the families they leave behind and to wounded warriors when they return home. The organization offers numerous home and vehicle repair services, in addition to food assistance, financial aid, moving and housing assistance and hurricane relief. Operation Homefront also operates an online magazine for military wives and women in uniform. Learn more about Operation Homefront's programs.

  • Operation Gratitude
    Operation Gratitude seeks to lift morale and put smiles on faces by sending care packages addressed to individual soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines deployed overseas. Through collection drives, letter writing campaigns and donations of funds for shipping expenses, Operation Gratitude provides civilians anywhere in America with a way to express their respect and appreciation to the men and women of the U.S. Military in an active, hands-on manner.

  • Operation Shoebox
    Founded in 2003 in an effort to send support, snacks and much needed personal care items to troops deployed outside of the United States, Operation Shoebox has information for those interested in adopting a troop.

  • Soldiers' Angels
    A volunteer-led nonprofit organization with 200,000 volunteers, the group Soldiers' Angels has more than 30 different teams supporting all branches of the U.S. armed forces. The website offers suggestions for getting involved in special projects such as blanket making, care package sending, emergency travel assistance and letter writing.

  • USO
    The USO is a private, nonprofit organization whose mission is to support the troops by providing morale, welfare and recreation-type services to American men and women in uniform. The USO currently operates more than 135 centers worldwide, including ten mobile canteens located in the continental United States and overseas. The website lists local USOs. The USO also provides opportunities to support the troops through projects such as Operation Phone Home, Operation USO Care Package, Mobile USO Program and Operation Enduring Care.

  • U.S. Troop Care Package
    U.S. Troop Care Package was founded in 2003, at the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and relies 100% upon volunteers, donated items, and financial contributions to send care packages to our troops. The site provides a list of ways volunteers can help.

For Seniors

  • American Association for Retired Persons (AARP)
    The American Association for Retired Persons provides a wide range of information for and about senior citizens, and encourages volunteering amongst the retired population. The website includes a page dedicated to volunteerism.

  • Generations United
    This umbrella organization fosters intergenerational cooperation to advance the social well being of children, youth and older people. The website provides connections to organizations and projects focused on intergenerational initiatives.

  • Little Brothers — Friends of the Elderly
    If you would like to serve senior citizens, Little Brothers offers opportunities in local chapters for people to serve as visiting volunteers, party helpers, drivers, office helpers or entertainers.

  • National Council on Aging
    The website of this nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy group dedicated to improving the lives of older Americans includes links to a variety of resources, as well as search engines for local organizations and volunteer opportunities through its Senior Community Service Employment Program.

  • Volunteers of America
    Volunteers of America is one of the nation's largest nonprofit providers of affordable housing for seniors and a major provider of professional long-term care, including assisted living, home health care and nursing home care. Services include senior centers, transportation, information and referral services, protective services, meal programs, handyman repair services and others. The organization recently launched Aging with OptionsTM, an initiative aimed at transforming senior care by improving access to home and community-based services.

Volunteerism

  • Do Something
    Do Something believes teenagers have the power to make a difference. The organization aims to leverage technologies to enable teens to convert their ideas and energy into positive action. At Do Something's website, teens can learn about causes that matter and take action.

  • Idealist
    Idealist connects people, organizations and resources with the aim of building a world where all people can live free and dignified lives. Their website offers a searchable database of over 18,000 volunteering opportunities.

  • Corporation for National and Community Service
    The Corporation for National and Community Service improves lives, strengthens communities and fosters civic engagement through service and volunteering. The group's website contains a history of service in the United States and detailed information about current legislation. The Corporation also provides Serve.gov, where individuals can search for volunteer opportunities, in addition to offering Volunteering in America, which hosts the most comprehensive collection of data on volunteering and civic engagement.

  • The LEAGUE
    The LEAGUE supports teachers and schools in educating and empowering young people to give of their time and talent for the common good. The LEAGUE provides instructions for planning service projects, tracking service results, celebrating team members and more. It also provides more than 1,300 K-12 lessons on giving, service and civic engagement coded to all state academic standards, through its curriculum division, Learning to Give.

  • Network for Good
    Network for Good gives website visitors a chance to look for volunteer opportunities and donate to causes and organizations in traditional ways or through "good" gift cards and baskets.

  • Points of Light Institute/HandsOn Network
    The Points of Light Institute is a powerful, integrated national organization with a global focus on redefining volunteerism and civic engagement. The organization's website assists in the building of volunteer organizations and the training of volunteer managers, and it offers links to a wide selection of volunteer programs. 1-800-Volunteer.org, part of Points of Light Institute's HandsOn Network, offers a searchable national database of volunteer opportunities.

  • The Volunteer Family
    The Volunteer Family aims to make volunteering easy by offering suggestions for activities that encourage family volunteering and their website also has family-oriented listings.

  • VolunteerMatch
    An in-depth directory of community service listings, VolunteerMatch also provides ways for individuals, nonprofits and corporations to find places to volunteer and offers virtual opportunities.

 

Get informed about the issues in the film and lead a discussion in your community.

Discussion Guide

Discussion Guide

The Way We Get By shatters stereotypes, examines how community involvement improves the lives of the elderly and provides a portrait of the benefits and limitations of life in a small town. As an outreach tool, the film transcends partisan political debates while raising important public policy issues related to health care, war and veterans affairs. Ultimately, it reminds viewers of the tremendous power of simple acts of human kindness.

Lesson Plan

Lesson Plan

This lesson plan utilizes the film and website resources for The Way We Get By, which tells the story of a group of volunteers who have greeted more than 900,000 troops at a tiny airport in Bangor, Maine. Classrooms can use these resources to conduct an investigation that compares and contrasts the homecoming experiences of soldiers who served in World War II and the wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Reading List

Delve Deeper

This multimedia resource list, compiled by Debby DeSoer of the Ellensburg Public Library and Eva Sandler, includes books, films and other materials related to the issues presented in the film The Way We Get By. Learn more about aging and seniors, volunteerism and war and the military.

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It's really a personal story not a political one. That goes for the greeters themselves as well. They have different views on the war, but their main goal is to support the troops.”

— Aron Gaudet, Filmmaker