The sun was still rising over St. Louis as people started streaming into Food Outreach.
Soon, a Missouri State University Alumni Association event would kick off.
But this wasn’t traditional networking. These Bears were there to serve others.
They would cook, clean and package meals. This food would later be distributed to low-income men, women and children with cancer or HIV/AIDS.
They weren’t the only team of Missouri State alumni, family and friends giving back that week.
This group was part of Bears in Action, Missouri State’s first-ever week of alumni volunteer service. Bears in Action events were held in April 2019 in three locations: St. Louis; Kansas City, Missouri; and Washington, D.C.
These events help Missouri State put the public affairs mission into practice.
They also make MSU a visible part of communities outside of Springfield.
“We wanted to find different ways to reach out to alumni and give them new ways to engage with us, even if they don’t live near the university,” said Joseph Schiermann, ’01 & ’03.
Schiermann is a member of the Alumni Association Board of Directors, and served as the volunteer liaison for the St. Louis event.
All arrangements were made at each of the volunteer sites. All Bears needed to do was register to attend, show up and make a difference.
Spreading nutrition to those in need
Food Outreach in St. Louis provides more than 533,000 meals a year to clients in Missouri and Illinois.
They focus on nutrition that will help low-income cancer and HIV/AIDS patients heal, better tolerate their treatments and have a better quality of life.
Sandy Smith, ’74 & ’76, and Gary Smith, ’76, spent their volunteer time in Food Outreach’s commercial-style kitchen. Before the morning was over, they had made meatball sauce, chicken, bean soup and sweet potatoes.
When their food was ready, it went to alumni and friends in the next room who packed it into containers.
“I’m enjoying this because I am meeting new people,” she said. “This was a good alumni event for me because I like giving back — this is right up my alley.”
Others said the same thing.
“I’m a neighbor. It’s 14 blocks from here to my office and 13 blocks to home,” said Tom Fuhry, ’87. He’s with Ad Creations Promotions Group, a sponsor of the event. “It’s my community and my university, so it was an easy decision to give back.”
“It makes people proud” of MSU
Some people at Bears in Action, like Jessica Voris, ’91, were at an Alumni Association event for the first time.
“My husband, Ernie Voris, is also an alum, and our daughter Brittany graduated in 2019. Our Bear roots are deep! I read about this event in an email, and thought it sounded like a great opportunity to reconnect.”
Others had attended many MSU events held in St. Louis.
“This seemed to draw more people than some evening events I have been to, and a variety of ages,” said Jim Shelton,’ 79. “This mix shows a lot of people from Missouri State care about their community.”
When the food was cooked and portioned, and the kitchen and pantry gleamed, the Bears at the event took off their hair nets and headed home.
“This brought alumni together to interact for a good cause,” said Doug Richter, ’07. “It makes people proud of their university. We’re putting our efforts to work for others.”