Alpha Phi seeks to build on success with Red Dress Gala

Ellen Ivens-Duran

2015-10-18 16.27.18WEB
The Alpha Phi sorority in front of Prentiss hall.

Alpha Phi’s third annual Red Dress Gala, a silent auction and social event, will take place this Friday at Main Street Studios. Half of the proceeds of the evening will go to the Alpha Phi Foundation, which supports women’s heart health and women’s leadership, while the other half will go to Trilogy, a local organization that supports children whose lives are affected by substance abuse.

Alpha Phi is Whitman’s newest female fraternity on campus; the chapter was started by Alpha Phi International in the spring of 2012. Caitlin Mahan, a senior and former president of Alpha Phi, is currently the Vice President of Recruitment and Membership as well as a member of the first formal pledge class. Her involvement has taught her how difficult planning new events on campus can be.

“[Because] everything we do [is new], it’s hard to know what to expect from it, and it’s just kind of challenging to get the word out that we do it,” Mahan said. “Some of the other groups on campus have things that they do every year, that they’ve been having for 30 years, so it’s just harder to start something and get people pumped about it.”

However, she also sees Alpha Phi’s novelty as an opportunity; they aren’t locked in by tradition.

“Being new has allowed us to have total control over what events we have,” Mahan said.

The Red Dress Gala has seen its fair share of transformation since it began in 2013. It has moved from the Elkhorn Lodge, to the Charles Smith Winery, and finally to this year’s location: Main Street Studios. And the success has varied as well. Most members seemed to think of the first year as a trial run. Last year’s event saw a significant increase in donations and earned Whitman’s chapter the Most Improved Philanthropy Award from Alpha Phi International.

“Kappa’s Mr. Whitman…raised [29,038 dollars], which I think is really cool, and…Theta’s…[Walla Walla’s] Best Dance Crew made 16,000 dollars last year,” said sophomore Liz Chenok, who is the Director of Marketing for the Gala. “I think the Red Dress Gala is getting there and that’s really exciting.”

The Gala itself consists of an open bar, a silent auction, and heart healthy food. This year, ticket prices have been lowered for students. For Whitman students and people under the age of 18, the cost is 15 dollars. For others, the cost of attendance is 35 dollars. Alpha Phis and their families have made up the majority of attendees in the past, and Alpha Phi is counting on that trend to continue.

“There’s definitely things geared towards parents because we are trying to raise money for our philanthropy, and … it’s easier for a [parent] to donate money than a student,” said Liz Chenok.

Each initiated member is responsible for helping  make one basket, with items donated by family members, local businesses, or by the member herself. New members are obligated to perform tasks the night of the event.

Annalise Bond, the sophomore planning the event, is responsible for the changes to cost and venue this year. She has also made the decision to contribute half the proceeds to Trilogy instead of STEP women’s shelter, which was the original intended recipient. Since STEP is closing at the end of this year, Bond decided that Trilogy was a better choice.

“[W]e already have a partnership with Trilogy and our spring Philanthropy event … donated its proceeds to Trilogy, and I’m still waiting to hear back from them, but they will most likely [be] who we donate to,” Bond said. “That’s a really great cause as well.”

Although the philanthropy aspect of the Red Dress Gala is difficult to overlook, Bond wants to keep people conscious of the other important parts of the event.

“The event is to raise money,” Bond said. “But also to raise awareness about heart health.”