Greeks take varied approaches to service

Patricia Vanderbilt

Credit: Halley McCormick

Philanthropy in Whitman’s Greek organizations runs the gamut from Mr. Whitman, to stream restoration and dog walking with the local animal shelter.  Greek groups participate in philanthropy as a way to work together and give back to the community, and the group dynamic of Greek organizations motivates sorority and fraternity members to turn up and fill a need they see in the community.

Though fraternity and sorority members both enjoy working together for a good cause, the scale of Greek group philanthropy tends to vary on gendered lines.

Sophomore Daniel Zajic, philanthropy chair for the Sigma Chi fraternity, organizes small philanthropy events that the Sigs do with a variety of local organizations.

“I love doing community service. For others, they just like giving back. We try to do fun things so it’s not just busy work––like dog walking; everyone loves dogs,” said Zajic.

Sigma Chi hosts an annual wine auction during family weekend each fall. Funds raised for next year’s event will benefit Helpline of Walla Walla.

Sophomore Sara Graham, meanwhile, will be organizing next year’s Mr. Whitman event for Kappa Kappa Gamma: undoubtedly the largest charity fundraising event (Greek or independent) that occurs on campus each year. Last fall, Mr. Whitman raised $30,000 for Blue Mountain Heart to Heart; in 2010 the event raised a record $50,000 for the Chris Elliot fund.  Part of Mr. Whitman’s success is its incorporation of many different campus groups. The  event is a pageant-esque competition between eight men (four Greek, four independent), each of whom are charged with the task of raising thousands of dollars.

“Choosing the guys is kind of the face, definitely,” Graham said. “They represent different groups on campus, you access different groups in that way, independent people have different friends. You’re getting more people, because everyone knows different people than us going out to the people we know. It’s kind of a spidering effect.”

According to Graham, Mr. Whitman’s use of contestants from many campus groups, as well as its reputation as a fun and entertaining event, makes the pageant a successful signature philanthropy that the Kappas are known for.

“None of [other Greek groups’] philanthropy is in your face, it’s not encompassing the student body in the same way,” Graham said. “You don’t hear about it, and know that they do it as much. It’s philanthropy not involving the student body, so you don’t hear about it.”

This year, the women of Kappa Alpha Theta are expanding their own signature philanthropy event with the newly re-named Walla Walla’s Best Dance Crew, previously known as Cakes for CASA: Whitman’s Best Dance Crew.

“I definitely think that both of the groups, the sororities and fraternities, do think that philanthropy is very important. On campus, the major events have been by Kappa, and I think that this year the Thetas are trying to step that up with Walla Walla’s Best Dance Crew,” said sophomore Shelley Stephan, president of Kappa Alpha Theta.

Walla Walla’s Best Dance Crew will include a variety of Whitman dancers as well as dance groups from Walla Walla.

[for more on Walla Walla’s Best Dance Crew, see Thetas open charity dance competition to local teams, page 2]

Stephan said that a large-scale philanthropy event would allow the Thetas more success in raising awareness about Court-Appointed Special Advocates, Theta’s national philanthropy.

“It helps us create a more significant impact,” she said. “By expanding it, it creates a signature event for people to look forward to and contribute to.”

The large events that Thetas and Kappas work to organize each year create an association between the sororities and philanthropy that isn’t necessarily present in fraternities’ reputations.  Junior Wataru Takagi, philanthropy chair for Phi Delta Theta, discussed the Phis’ attitude towards their own philanthropy.

“I think [philanthropy is] something that we ourselves take part in, and take pride in, but it’s not something that would be known by the community. It’s not something that we place emphasis on, it’s something that we see we need to do, instead of something we need to show off,” said Takagi.

The Phis routinely participate in stream restoration, Adopt-a-Grandparent, the Storytime Project and the mentoring program. They recently completed their large philanthropy event: a food drive for Blue Mountain Action Council’s food distribution warehouse in which they collected 691 pounds of food.

The women of Delta Gamma also take a more internal approach to their philanthropy.

“The philanthropy that the Alpha Eta chapter of  Delta  Gamma  participates in on the Whitman campus is quite different than any other Greek group in that we do not do one big event, but rather our girls are active in many activities ranging from making quilts every weekend which we send to the school of the blind and odd fellows, to leaf raking, to anchor drive, and many more,” said sophomore Sarah Anderegg, Vice President of Foundation for Delta Gamma in an email.

According to Zajic and Takagi, fraternity philanthropy is fulfilling for its participants and makes a difference without needing to incorporate outside groups.

“With the fraternities, I feel like if we make it into a big event, then it’s not as meaningful because people will take it as, oh, they’re just trying to make themselves look better. It doesn’t serve the exact purpose of philanthropy,” Takagi said.

“[Philanthropy] is just a great way to expand to the community and show that the Greek system isn’t just for partying or something like that. It’s something more substantial.”