By: Sheena Rice

For MU junior Anthony Ruffner, a strategic communications student from St. Louis, service is more than a buzzword. It’s a real way to change the world, and it doesn’t come with a one-size-fits all blueprint.

During Family Weekend, Ruffner and 35 other MU students loaded into seven vehicles to make the 14-hour drive to Houston to volunteer in the rebuilding process after Hurricane Harvey. Those joining him included several of his fraternity brothers from Delta Tau Delta and other fraternities. They were choosing to give up their weekend, and a home football game, to help others.

The idea to help only came to Ruffner the week before.

The spur of the moment trip wasn’t new for Ruffner. In fact, the whole concept behind his organization, The Hope Project, is to creatively empower students to make a difference in the world.

“For me, changing the world means being responsive, right there in the moment,” Ruffner said. “Talking to friends, my fraternity brothers and members of The Hope Project, we realized we had an opportunity to help a community in need right then, and we couldn’t wait for things to ‘fall together’ to help.”

While in Houston, Ruffner and his fellow Mizzou students got “down and dirty” helping Eight Days of Hope, a non-profit which specializes in disaster clean up, and Grace Church in Houston with rebuilding projects. The volunteers disposed of water-logged furniture, ripped out floors and pulled down drywall in people’s homes that were damaged in the storm.

“Many of the people we helped were elderly, so they were grateful for the assistance with the heavy lifting,” Ruffner said. “What was even more amazing was being able to talk to them. People who lost their homes and have gone through tragedy were still full of faith and provided insight about how important it is to give back.”

Ruffner hopes that the advice he received in Houston will stay with him as he leads the Hope Project through its first full year as a student organization. The organization started in the fall of 2016 and was recognized as a university organization in the spring of 2017. The group plans to work with several local and global organizations in the coming year.

“Anthony is a great example of a Mizzou student, someone who instills Midwestern values into everything he does,” said Jim Spain, vice provost for undergraduate studies and eLearning. “I am so proud knowing that Anthony and the other Mizzou students are representing MU as they are willing to roll up their sleeves to serve others and work to make the world a better place.”

The Hope Project is just one of more than 600 recognized student organizations at Mizzou, including membership opportunities in Greek Life, Club Sports, Student Government and Residence Halls.