The best things in life

Miki Johnson

Participants in Greek exchanges for years have put their money where their mouth is with charity work. But a new initiative gives them a chance to put their hands in, too.

Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic Association community service leaders have collaborated this quarter to create “service exchanges.” For these events, as with social exchanges, sororities are paired with one or more fraternities. But instead of attending a social event, the pairs volunteer together to help a local organization, according to Kevin Tuazon, IFC’s vice president of service and scholarship.

“Most people want to volunteer, but they need some kind of push,” said Tuazon, a Weinberg senior. “Going with friends and meeting people is a good incentive.”

Houses are currently in contact with their organizations and soon will start volunteering weekly, service leaders said.

The exchanges are part of this year’s push by IFC and Panhel to more directly involve members with the groups they benefit, said Melissa McGonegle, Panhel director of scholarship and service.

“Service events do a lot to give a fuller picture of the injustices that exist in this world and what you can do to change them,” said McGonegle, an Education senior.

To facilitate community service among Greeks, the two councils have made an effort to consolidate events to include more chapters. This cuts down on over-programming, creates “more polished” events and increases interaction between chapters, McGonegle said.

Kappa Kappa Gamma revamped its philanthropy events to keep with the new emphasis on service over fund raising. This year, instead of participating in OX Bowl, a flag-football game, Kappa created Play Day.

Kappa, along with members of Theta Chi and Delta Upsilon, hosted a day of activities Saturday at Blomquist Recreation Center for children from a Chicago Youth Center. The centers provide academic, athletic and counseling programs for children from some of Chicago’s toughest neighborhoods.

Members who were unimpressed by OX Bowl’s level of involvement wanted to do more than just “cut checks,” said Annie Clemens, Kappa’s philanthropy chair.

“(OX Bowl) wasn’t something tangible, wasn’t service-oriented,” she said. “So we took it on ourselves to do something the girls can get a little more excited about.”

About 80 students, including 60 Kappa women, went to the event, which was meant to encourage its members to volunteer individually at the center throughout the year, said Clemens, a Medill junior.

This type of service is not new to the National Pan-Hellenic Council. The body, which governs Northwestern’s historically black Greek system, emphasizes the importance of direct interaction with its beneficiaries, said Ebo Dawson-Andoh, NPHC president.

One of the ways Kappa Alpha Psi, Inc., serves the community is through the fraternity’s Kappa League program.

Kappa League is a small group of students from Evanston Township High School who meet with members of Kappa Alpha Psi three times a month for mentoring, tutoring and getting a feel for college life, said Dawson-Andoh, an Education senior and fraternity member.

One of the three monthly meetings, including one held Thursday night at Kemper Hall, is devoted to showing high school students what an average social evening is like in college.

“There’s not really anyone in my family who’s really been through (the college application process),” said Andre Patrick, a high school junior at ETHS who attended Thursday’s movie night. “I know they’ll really help me.”

Chapters of fraternity Phi Beta Sigma, Inc., are required to host an event every quarter to support the American Cancer Society, which has a partnership with the fraternity on a national level. On Monday, fraternity members set up a table in Norris University Center to encourage people to stop using tobacco.

As part of the society’s “Great American Smokeout,” fraternity members supplied information about tobacco’s negative effects and how to quit. They also asked people to sign cards pledging not to use tobacco for the day in hopes that they eventually will stop altogether, said Dezmond Sumpter, an Education junior and Phi Beta Sigma vice president.

Despite a new emphasis on service over philanthropy, IFC and Panhel still recognize the importance of raising money for charities.

This fall Delta Tau Delta’s Pajama Race on Oct. 11 raised almost $2,000 for Park Place Charities, which funds after-school programming for Cabrini Green’s Stanton Park. This year was particularly successful because 32 teams participated, compared to last year’s 12, according to Riley Smyth, the fraternity’s philanthropy chairman.

“(Volunteering) is important, because when you have that number of people that you do in a fraternity, they can make a large difference if they combine their efforts toward a larger goal,” said Smyth, a Weinberg junior.

Chi Omega sponsored a Comedy Sports improv show earlier this year, which raised more than $3,000 for the “Make a Wish Foundation,” the sorority’s national philanthropy, said Carrie Heath, an Education senior and Chi O’s community service chairwoman.

Chi O combined philanthropic and service efforts by putting together gift bags for the children whose wishes the foundation grants.

“Working with Make a Wish makes all of us more appreciative of what we’ve been