SWAPPING RED DRESSES FOR SWEATPANTS: PHILANTHROPY DURING QUARANTINE

Alpha Phi brought some HalloPhine spirit with their drive-by trick-or-treating stand.

No more Red Dress Gala. No more Airbands. No more Skit.

COVID has forced Greek life groups to adapt their philanthropy approaches. The future of large fundraising events has been thrown into question as a result. Major philanthropy events will either be postponed, canceled, or done virtually. 

Philanthropy is a major part of Greek life at Chapman. The nineteen chapters on campus have raised upwards of $200,000 annually in years past. Some larger events raised over $20,000 on their own, such Tri Delta’s St Jude Letter Writing Campaign. Alpha Phi’s Red Dress Gala usually raises $100,00, making it one of the most profitable events.

While COVID presents a challenge, Greek life is still determined to keep philanthropy as a key part of the experience.

“It’s been really hard and we’re just trying to make things fun and exciting. We might not make as much money but every dollar counts,” said Grace Eberly, Alpha Phi’s Panhellenic delegate. 

Eberly and the Alpha Phi executive board had to brainstorm ways to safely raise money. Normally, the sorority has two major events, Mr. Alpha Phi in the fall and the Red Dress Gala in the spring. Both events raise money for women’s heart health research. The Red Dress Gala features silent and live auctions. Gift baskets typically used in the auction went unused last spring due to the event’s cancellation. 

The baskets were able to be reused for this Fall Semester’s Mr. Alpha Phi, a male pageant in which the sororities each coach a representative of a fraternity. The event raised $11,000 and was held virtually with participants submitting videos of themselves.

“With COVID, we were happy to give anything to such an amazing cause,” said Eberly.

Alpha Phi normally hosts a soccer tournament known as Alpha Phifa but its future is unknown.

Alpha Phi isn’t alone in their rush to adapt. The Tri-Delta sorority has similar issues trying to continue philanthropy with its members scattered across the country. For the sorority’s philanthropy chair Kirstin Timm this poses concerns. When the shutdown occurred in the spring, the group was in the middle of planning an event. Normally Tri-Delta raises money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital with events like silent auctions, capture the flag events, and an email campaign known as Sincerely Yours.

So far, the Tri-Delts have held a Zoom meeting with a representative from St. Jude and have focused on using social media for promoting virtual events. Most recently, they hosted a walk-a-thon, giving people a chance to take a walk for their mental health and stay socially distanced, while making money for their cause. 

“It’s been a bit of a challenge but everyone in this community has been doing their best to stay engaged and present… while we’re not together, we can still come together virtually to support a great cause,” said Kirstin Timm, Tri-Delta’s chair of philanthropy. 

Jessica Gibbons, philanthropy chair of Alpha Gamma Delta is determined to keep philanthropy safe and accessible to chapter members. The sorority focuses on fighting hunger and normally volunteers and raises funds for food banks. As such, most of their philanthropy is very hands-on. Recently, the sorority held a letter-writing fundraiser to raise money safely.

“I would encourage people to look in their local communities to get involved… the world needs all the help it can get these days,” said Gibbons. 

Shannon Keane, president of philanthropy praised Greek life’s ability to adapt. She insisted that chapters are still dedicated to contributing to their individual philanthropies. That said, the scope of philanthropy has shifted towards the local community. 

“Beta did a food drive for Mary’s Kitchen and Pi Phi did a school supply drive,” said Keane. 

She hopes that the Panhellenic board continues to foster relationships with local organizations and was optimistic.

“We’re not going to get the engagement we normally get but we’ve seen a lot of good things come out of philanthropy this semester,” Keane said. 

From left: Emily Layton, Talia Haddad
2019’s Fleurish raised over $16,000 and Kappa Kappa Gamma hopes to safely host it again this spring.

“It’s different for every sorority and fraternity,” said Madison Mercer, philanthropy chair of Kappa Kappa Gamma. 

Prior to the shutdown, the group was planning to partner with the Boys and Girls Club of Santa Ana to host a costumed tea party but it was canceled. The sorority’s main event is Fleurish which aims to raise awareness about a selected issue. In year’s past, the topics have ranged from mental wellness to female empowerment. Last year they partnered with One Love with a focus on healthy relationships. 

Kappa ended up doing a lot of virtual fundraisers including pandemic relief in Orange County and SEAL for Lebanon. They’re planning on having virtual memberships with the Big Brothers and Sisters of Orange County.

“We’re super excited about that because it’s completely safe and online,” said Mercer. 

The group hopes to host Fleurish in the spring, where it will be held outside, with masks, and at a limited capacity. 

“We hope it will be a source of optimism and hope for people… we’re not going to let COVID stand in the way of that,” said Mercer. 

As spring approaches and events continue to be reworked, camaraderie has been more important than ever. 

“During these unprecedented times, the best thing we can do is help each other,” said Grace Eberly. 

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