Greek life philanthropy adapts to COVID-19

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Lambda Chi Alpha Watermelon Bust, 2018. Photo by Christina Kirk.

It is impossible not to take note of the changes that have occurred on campus as a result of COVID-19. However, it may not always be clear to members of the William Jewell College community how organizations on campus have been affected by changes, particularly if they are not directly involved in these organizations.

One example of this is the way that Greek life has been affected by COVID-19. A major aspect of Greek life is philanthropy, and every sorority and fraternity has a designated charity which they seek to benefit, either through fundraising events, drives or volunteer work.

COVID-19 restrictions have changed the nature of philanthropic efforts. Usual fundraising activities had to be tabled given their high contact nature.

Greek organizations needed to engage in an intensive reflection and reevaluation of the ways in which they would approach philanthropic work. The Greek organizations began discussing potential changes with Kristin Wooldridge, director of student engagement and Greek advisor, beginning in the spring semester of last year.

Greek life leadership and Wooldridge were able to identify ways to ensure that philanthropy is still a major arm of Greek life, despite the fact that a lot of typical philanthropic events – including parties and other social events – are no longer a possibility.

Even ideas that cannot yet be implemented are recorded, so that, when it becomes possible and safe to return to “normality,” there is still a great well of creativity from which to draw upon.

When a new idea may pose some difficulties in implementation, Wooldridge forwards them to the Strategic Task Force – a group created by Jewell to strategize how the College can meet demands for safety and health during COVID-19.

For example, Wooldridge proposed a trick-or-treating night be held in the Panhellenic and Fraternity circle, pending approval by the Strategic Task Force.

All the fraternities and sororities have been working diligently with Wooldridge, their members, and their chosen charities to ensure that philanthropic work is done safely and regularly. Below are some of the changes that specific sororities and fraternities have been implementing in light of COVID-19 restrictions.

Alpha Gamma Delta

Delta Zeta

Zeta Tau Alpha

Lambda Chi Alpha

Kappa Alpha Order

Alpha Gamma Delta

Supported Organizations: Harvesters– The Community Food Network, Meals on Wheels, Nourish KC and The Children’s Place Preschools.

Alpha Gamma Delta believes that its members should be encouraged to be leading, loving and lasting. This purpose is best exemplified by Alpha Gamma Delta’s philanthropic mission, which is “Fighting Hunger: Full Plates. Hearts. Minds.”

The leadership of Alpha Gamma Delta has been in contact with local organizations in order to brainstorm ways of fighting hunger remotely or within COVID-19 guidelines, as provided by Jewell and Clay County.

With this stream of communication with local organizations and with Wooldridge, Alpha Gamma Delta has volunteered at Harvesters Food Bank in helping to package meals for children. The sorority also hosted a fundraising night at Yogurtini.

The leadership is planning a silent auction under the title “MudTug,” in honor of the annual event of the Tug-of-War tournament hosted by the sorority. Obviously, such a tournament cannot be held due to COVID-19 restrictions, and therefore it has been converted into a silent auction to be held in October. The sorority has also fostered a relationship with Zora Boutique KC on Liberty Square, and is hopeful that such a relationship will lead to greater opportunities for fundraising.

Delta Zeta

Supported Organizations: The Painted Turtle Camp and the Starkey Hearing Foundation.

According to Gillian Evans, vice president of philanthropy and junior nursing major, the mission of Delta Zeta is to achieve a “life-long, values-based membership experience for women.” In particular, the members of Delta Zeta seek to “achieve real, authentic relationships” within the sisterhood and in the larger Jewell and Liberty community.

Though the leadership of Delta Zeta does not directly communicate with their charities, they show their support for these charities by bringing in plenty of assistance – in the form of funding or other contributions –  to these organizations.

The leadership of the sorority meets once a week to discuss the necessary precautions and procedures in order to engage in philanthropy work, and to have executive meetings with the rest of the sisterhood. During these meetings, the leadership also comes up with virtual and safe in-person events to engage in.

Delta Zeta has had difficulty in the sense that two of their major events, Pancake and Pajamas and Getting Cheesy with DZ, are high contact events, and had to be canceled this year.

The sorority is convinced that they will be able to continue to engage in meaningful philanthropic work – in fact, they have an event planned for November (though the details of this event are secret for now).

Zeta Tau Alpha 

Supported Organization: Breast Cancer Education and Awareness.

The leadership of Zeta Tau Alpha has been in close communication with Wooldridge. 

Usually, Zeta Tau Alpha volunteers at “Making Strides Kansas City” in the fall semester. This event is now occurring virtually, and so the leadership of the sorority has also been in communication with the head of this event in order to ensure that the sorority can still make a voluntaristic impact despite these major changes.

Furthermore, the leadership has been trying to create as many virtual events as possible. Zeta Tau Alpha will be holding Jewell’s Got Talent on Facebook by having six organizations send in videos of their performance, and then holding a virtual campus vote.

Unfortunately, some major events, like the Bra Couture event, are simply too high-contact to engage in safely. Nevertheless, Zeta Tau Alpha has persisted in their mission to bring awareness to breast cancer, as evidenced by the pink decorations in the Union, and their commitment to hosting THINK PINK week online.

Lambda Chi Alpha

Supported Organization:  Harvesters—The Community Food Network.

Lambda Chi Alpha has benefited from working closely with a former member of the fraternity who now works with Harvesters as a donation coordinator. Previously, the fraternity engaged in door-to-door fundraising efforts and was developing a partnership with some local schools. Because of COVID-19, these efforts have been put on hold. As a result, Lambda Chi Alpha has had to rethink the ways that they engage in philanthropic efforts. Their brainstorming is supported by conversations with Harvesters and with Wooldridge.

Graham Bellamy, president of Lambda Chi Alpha and junior biochemistry major, says that Lambda Chi Alpha must be adaptable.

In defining adaptability, Bellamy said that it is “up to us [the fraternity’s cabinet] to be willing to change in the time if need be. This could come in many different forms but mainly it comes from combining the ideas and the hard work of the officers and members to create the best outcome.”

The members of Lambda Chi Alpha have also supported other Greek organizations, such as Zeta Tau Alpha, in raising funds. In the future, the fraternity plans to have a canned food drive and engage in highway clean-ups.

Kappa Alpha Order 

Supported Organizations: The Muscular Dystrophy Association and The Independence Fund.

The Kappa Alpha Order supports such values as “reverence, gentility, knowledge, leadership, brotherhood and excellence,” according to Kole Wagener, a member of the executive cabinet and senior psychological science major.

The order has been in communication with their supported organizations in order to ensure that they can come up with ways to fundraise. Despite the restrictions from COVID-19, new avenues for philanthropic work have also opened up to the order.

For instance, the Independence Fund is now offering COVID-19 relief for veterans. The Kappa Alpha Order has also partnered with other Kappa Alpha Orders in other colleges to contribute financially to veterans.

The order has also started calling and reaching out to Jewell alumni, and their own friends and families, to raise funds for their supported causes.

Social media has played a crucial role for the Kappa Alpha Order. This is because social media is a means of spreading the word about the causes that the order supports, and is also a way to get in contact with the organizations themselves.

The Kappa Alpha Order has engaged in highway clean-ups, and is considering holding fundraising nights at Chipotle in a COVID-19 safe way.

Phi Gamma Delta was contacted for comment on its philanthropic efforts but has not yet responded to the inquiry request. The article will be updated upon response.

Angelica Gutierrez

Angelica Gutierrez is the page editor for Lifestyle on The Hilltop Monitor. She is a sophomore majoring in Oxbridge: History of Ideas.

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