Extending a helping hand comes naturally to alumnus Rucker Preston. A passionate agent for change, Preston began serving the community of Belton at Helping Hands Ministries, a direct service nonprofit sharing Christ with those hurting and in need. Through this work, Preston lives out his personal service philosophy every day. However, after eight years of service, he has accepted a new position, but his mission hasn’t changed.
Rucker Preston, MSW ‘16, recently accepted the position of executive director at the Texas Christian Community Development Network (TxCCDN).
The TxCCDN is a network that exists to connect churches and volunteers with nonprofits and ministries that do the physical and tangible work of sharing the love and mission of Jesus. The organization also serves to educate and train other organizations so they can share their knowledge and expertise across the state.
“They also serve to advocate, and this is what excited me,” Preston said. “They have never had a full-time paid director, so I would be the first and I am excited to grow the network and to see us become more advocacy-minded.”
Preston’s background with Helping Hands involved mostly direct service. Under Preston’s leadership, the organization successfully took on unjust payday and auto title lending practices in their community. Locally, the organization had success with creating city ordinances that protected marginalized groups in Temple, Belton, and Killeen from these unjust practices, Preston said.
“As people of faith, we felt this was an unjust practice that goes against everything we see in scripture,” Preston said. “So, we spoke to our city councils in Belton and Temple, and loosely in Killeen and Waco. We also spoke for several different committees at the state level at the Texas State session in 2015, and we expect to do it again this year.”
Both Helping Hands and TxCCDN are capacity-building organizations. The TxCCDN builds capacity for direct service providers, ministries, and churches across the state—and Helping Hands is one of those direct service providers. Preston said he plans on expanding training opportunities offered by the TxCCDN to give volunteers and service providers from local communities a chance to come together and share their knowledge base to help others in a similar situation.
“Being an executive director has helped me, and I have been able to grow [Helping Hands] and increase the infrastructure,” Preston said. “My outlook for the next five years of the TxCCDN is similar… it will involve a broader and more macro emphasis on the same type of work.”
Citing his MSW degree as a major qualification for the executive director position, Preston said the knowledge and skills he gained while earning his graduate degree were incredibly valuable. The program teaches students to understand not only the ministry side of social work, but also how all of the different systems within the state work together, Preston said.
“I just think we have so much more to offer whenever work together,” Preston said. “I think we need to get back to ensuring that everything we do is related to people, making sure our outcomes are people-specific, meaningful, and lasting.”
Story by Madyson Russell, Marketing and Communications Intern