While the joys of spring break and shamrocks are quickly approaching, TRUCare’s service initiatives are also exciting opportunities next month for the Truman State University community. Nationwide volunteer efforts are bridging the gap between current, future and former students through the sentiment of giving back.
The program began in 2017, when local service objectives were expanded across the midwest and eventually throughout the country. TRUCare then began its pursuit of strengthened volunteer integration by planning charity events with alumni chapters, monitoring Truman volunteer hours and bringing it all together with a longstanding community service event.
Luke Callaghan, alumni relations coordinator, said the project was constructed as a way of linking those affiliated with Truman across both generations and locations.
“TRUCare was set up as a way to kind of engage alumni, faculty, staff and friends to give back and continue the Bulldog journey — that journey of service and commitment to the community once graduation has happened and post graduation,” Callaghan said. “Typically, we have around 1,200 volunteers during the month of March that give back to their communities.”
With an objective of such broad scope, finding where to begin can often be a cumbersome process. Because the events are listed on TRUCare’s website, however, Callaghan explained that embarking on a personal service journey is greatly simplified.
Projects range across the U.S. to accommodate students and alumni from multiple locales, including those in Missouri, such as Columbia, St. Louis and Kansas City, as well as out of state and even abroad.
To get involved, Callaghan suggested that students and alumni reach out to organizations or affiliations they have across the country.
“We’re basically relying on our alumni and our friends to have connections or make connections in their community,” Callaghan said. “There are a lot here in northeastern Missouri that I know of and work with personally, but there’s also that same need for volunteerism in every community across the nation.”
Students at Truman tend to be driven toward charitable efforts, Callaghan pointed out, whether that be via the SERVE Center, service fraternities or club fundraising. That strive for public welfare, however, frequently diminishes upon leaving college volunteer affiliations — which is exactly what TRUCare looks to prevent.
Callaghan described the need for community assistance as larger than simply local outreach or service group events. While those mediums can provide occasions to help those in the immediate vicinity of the University, Callaghan emphasizes the importance of considering a deeper perspective.
“You know, sometimes when we think Truman, we think [of] very small Kirksville, Missouri,” Callaghan said. “That’s one of the things that makes us great, is this very tight-knit community here in town — but the Bulldog community is so much bigger. We want them to feel connected not only to their communities, but to Truman once they graduate, and I think to their respective communities it’s huge to see organizations coming together — regardless of who it is.”
Part of what allows the service offering to build widespread interaction is its inclusion endeavors. Though the goal is to specifically join Truman’s diverse publics, the events are made open to all.
Callaghan said this provision facilitates connections among not only the University’s affiliates, but also Truman and its greater surroundings.
“We have nine free, organized, ready-to-go projects that people can sign up for in their communities, but we also want absolutely anyone to get involved,” Callaghan explained. “You don’t have to be an alumni. You don’t have to be a friend of the University. You can be absolutely anybody who wants to give back, and you can be part of this TRUCare community.”
Those same ideas were reflected by Director of Engagement Stacy Tucker-Potter. Tucker-Potter, who has been working at the University for 12 years, has watched the program unfold from its first stages into a fully developed objective aimed at reaching out to the Kirksville community and afar.
Tucker-Potter said the plan was initially to engage alumni across state lines, but has since shifted toward an expansive campaign involving a range of participants.
“We’ve always known that Truman students are serving the community here in Kirksville, and we know that service doesn’t end at graduation,” Tucker-Potter said. “So they thought that a service endeavor would be a great way to reach out to people regardless of whether they lived in a chapter area. That was exactly what it was designed to do, and that’s our biggest hope this year.”
The Alumni Board of Directors devised TRUCare in attempts to extend assistance while also accounting for it. Through volunteer tracking, the program looks to inspire people to do good deeds and monitor progress via online forms found on the TRUCare tab at the alumni site.
These records of service can be fulfilled in multiple ways. Tucker-Potter explained that any charitable achievement, big or small, contributes to TRUCare’s month-long tally.
“Many of us are doing service in our communities on a regular basis, so we really want to encourage people who live anywhere to log their hours,” Tucker-Potter said. “You could be working at the library, or you could be tutoring kids after school. Anything through the month of March counts toward that TRUCare total.”
Beyond general service, pre-organized events across the country give those who wish to serve a chance to do so with more specialized methods.
Alumni clubs typically coordinate day-long functions that accommodate their respective cities. For instance, the St. Louis branch held a pet parade last year in support of pet adoption awareness within that community. Other community-specific missions include the Kansas City chapter’s help with its historical Harvesters — The Community Food Network and Ronald McDonald House donations in Arizona.
“The cool thing about it is [volunteers] get to serve side by side with other alumni, which is where you form some of those connections and those bonds,” Tucker-Potter said. “They’re also meeting real needs in their communities. It’s been really popular in those chapters and we can kind of see that taking root.”
Tucker-Potter explained that she hopes these alumni events can coincide more with shorter breaks in the future so that students can have further opportunities to support their individual neighborhoods. If these hometown events are inconvenient for student schedules, however, one day each year is dedicated to aiding a local populace.
Truman will be hosting its 19th annual Big Event on March 28 to cap off the month’s efforts through a service project held in Kirksville and devoted toward those living in northeastern Missouri. TRUCare emerged from the occasion in 2017 and has since incorporated meaningful connections into Truman’s drive to serve.
“We wanted to do it in conjunction, because our younger alumni would have remembered having done the Big Event,” Tucker-Potter said. “They can be thinking about the fact that just because you graduate doesn’t mean your service ends, right? That you can still be a part of this really cool Truman community that values service, and you can be thinking about how that is going to impact what you do moving forward.”
TRUCare not only gives way to greater service power, but also provides essential networking potential. Working in close proximity to Truman associates as well as those outside that niche lets the University extend its purpose far past the campus.
Although much of TRUCare’s goal revolves around bringing these stakeholders together, Tucker-Potter emphasized that its main intention is for these groups to become a part of something larger.
“The thing that I think is the most impressive about Truman alumni is it doesn’t matter when you graduate — people have this really cool connection back to their alma mater,” Tucker-Potter said. “You’ll see people who graduated in the ’70s serving side by side with people who graduated in the 2000s. That ethic we have to make the world a better place cuts across all those generations and gives us an opportunity to be a part of something that’s bigger than ourselves.”
TRUCare’s ultimate intention is to instill unity beyond age, region and purpose so that all can come together to support worthy causes.
Callaghan also stressed the significance of transcending differences to consolidate Truman’s service base, citing heightened needs for awareness and respecting the world around us as a fundamental tenet of TRUCare’s merits.
“It’s about giving back,” Callaghan said. “We only spend a small time here at university, although it can feel like a long time. It’s important to look at the bigger picture — that we have the rest of our lives ahead of us, and it’s important to make the best of what we’ve got while we’re here. It’s about making a better world for the next generation to come, the next generation of students and the next generation of Bulldogs moving forward.”