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New Jumbo Alumni Service Month Engages Tufts Graduates

Friday, July 31, 2015

With support from Tisch College, 100 Tufts alumni performed nearly 300 community service hours across the country.

Group photo of Tufts alumni who volunteered at Carpenter's Shelter

Last month, 100 Tufts alumni from across the nation—and even around the world—tapped into the spirit of active citizenship instilled in them by their alma mater when they participated in the first ever Jumbo Alumni Service Month.

This initiative, spearheaded by the Tufts University Alumni Association, Active Citizens of Tufts (ACT-Boston), and Tisch College, engaged alumni chapters from London to San Francisco in a variety of community service events. The idea responded to a desire to unify and strengthen efforts already undertaken by many alumni groups.

“A lot of our chapters were doing these really great service events in their own communities, but there wasn’t a good united front and there wasn’t good branding around it, so people didn’t really know it was happening a lot of times,” says Jamie Wendel, Assistant Director of Alumni Relations. While previous attempts at creating such an event through a single service day had met with scheduling challenges and mixed results, alumni leaders were eager to try again with the added flexibility of the month-long timeframe.

“Everybody was really excited about the idea and thought it was a great way to get alumni more involved in doing civic engagement,” she says.

Tufts alumni chapters in San Francisco, New York, London, Chicago and Washington, D.C. signed up to participate, as did members of ACT-Boston and of Tufts Environmental Alumni. “A lot of the chapters that participated have existing relationships with various organizations, but we also wanted to provide them with appropriate support and guidance,” says Wendel. “Working with Tisch College, we created a good resource guide that could serve as a one-stop shop for planning their events and included ideas for national and local organizations to work with.”

The alumni groups organized and participated in a variety of events that tackled diverse issues in six different cities, contributing a total of nearly 300 service hours. In Boston, Tufts Environmental Alumni took part in a clean-up of the Mystic River, while ACT-Boston did the same in the Charles River. Tufts Alumni New York City joined the Service Day at City Harvest, a large food rescue organization, while Tufts Alumni Chicago joined the annual Chicago Cares Serve-a-thon. Tufts alumni in London organized an educational presentation on the importance of nutrition in the developing world featuring Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, Dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.

In San Francisco, a dozen Tufts alumni gathered to serve lunch at GLIDE, a church with a daily free meals program. The Jumbos served more than 100 community members.

Karen Blevins, A10, Community Service Chair of Tufts Alumni San Francisco, describes the event as a big success, and believes that having it as part of the larger service month amplifies the work.

“I think it’s a great thing to do to have it all at the same time so people can really rally around all across the country, get together, and give back in whatever way feels best,” she says. “People can feel like it’s part of a bigger movement, and as it continues I think people will look forward to it and come to expect it.”

In Washington, D.C., Jumbos served at Carpenter’s Shelter in northern Virginia, a shelter for currently or formerly homeless men, women, and families. “They have a really great playground area for the kids that was overrun with weeds, so we spent a number of hours cleaning up the shelter’s playground,” says Kira Doar, A08, Chair of the Tufts Alumni Association in D.C.—one of the largest chapters in the country. “The woman who coordinates the volunteers there said she wanted the playground there to be a place where kids can just be kids and forget about everything happening in their lives.”

Like organizers in other cities, Doar was excited about joining forces with other Tufts graduates for the service month, and was especially pleased it took place during the summer, when Tisch Summer Fellows and other interns in the nation’s capital could participate. “It was a really nice way to represent the Tufts community in D.C. in a really positive way and give back to the city,” she says. “And I like the t-shirts. Even when you graduate, you still want free t-shirts.”

Jaime Wendel hopes those shirts, and the success of this initial year’s service activities, will help increase awareness of the many opportunities for Tufts alumni to be active citizens wherever they are and make Jumbo Alumni Service Month a highly-anticipated event.

“We definitely want to repeat it next year,” she says. “We would love to see 10 to 15 alumni chapters participate next year as it continues to grow and hopefully, in time, every chapter will participate.”