True North of Columbia is a domestic and sexual violence survivors services organization that was started by a group of MU graduate students in the 1970s. Since then, the organization has expanded to include a shelter, hotline and outreach services within the community.
Elizabeth Herrera-Eichenberger, executive director of True North of Columbia, spoke with us about the work True North does within the community.
If people knew one thing about True North, what would you hope that thing is?
One thing that I would like people to know — all services are free and confidential. That is the most important thing that I will be held accountable for, but all of the staff is very committed to keeping people safe. So confidentiality is really important. And we’re not going to be upset if you call and you think your problem is not that big. It’s big to you, and it is important. We are going to hold that secret that you gave us a call, and the services are completely free. It’s not going to cost you absolutely anything.
What are some of the community outreach and community services that are provided through True North?
So we have a great team of committed, passionate individuals. We have a training program where we provide volunteer training three times a year. We also are able to speak and participate in community engagement activities, whether it’s churches, schools, universities. We have also participated in relationship and dating violence with the Columbia Public Schools; that’s been really exciting. We also participate in outreach opportunities within the Chamber of Commerce. That gives us many opportunities to get our message out and get people to understand relationship and dating violence and the impact it has on people.
What do you think is the importance of having that outreach in the community?
Our vision is a community free from domestic and sexual violence where healthy relationships thrive. So people need to understand that, and education is a big part of it. Sharing what we know and sharing the signs empowers people to reach out if they need support or teaches them how to hold space for somebody who’s experiencing something like this.
Is there anything you’d like to say to the community and to the people who nominated True North?
The first one is the immense amount of gratitude that I feel that the work is being recognized. The team works really, really hard. They are driven from their heart, and their passion is to see justice for people, specifically women. I have been very honored to have a group of shining stars that I get to work with every day. We are going to take really good care of you if you come and you seek services. I’m just really grateful that the work is recognized.