Fijis give back over fall break

Sidney Blanford

Fall break may be a chance for most students to relax at home, but for the brothers of Phi Gamma Delta (Fiji) at WKU, it’s a chance to engage in a unique community service opportunity.

Pledges and initiated brothers will head to Baton Rouge, La., on Wednesday to work with HOPE ministries – which fights homelessness – and the Capital Area United Way in various activities designed to benefit the two philanthropic organizations.

The trip was started in 2010 by former Community Service Chairman John Whitaker, a London junior, who now serves as the chapter’s Recording Secretary.

On the inaugural trip, the chapter volunteered with Habitat for Humanity and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

“We were just looking for a unique way to engage the guys in community service,” Whitaker said.

While the fraternity will be working with new organizations, the premise of this year’s trip will remain the same. Whitaker says this is still a great chance for community service to be engaging for the guys because it takes place in Louisiana.

Louisville sophomore Will Owens, who is Fiji’s current Community Service Chairman, has planned for the group to leave on Wednesday and return Saturday.

After contacting many southern chapters, the Beta Rho chapter at LSU remained the only responsive group.

They will be opening up their chapter house to the WKU Fijis as they did last year.

“This is both a brotherhood trip and a community service trip,” Owens said.

On Thursday, the 40 Fijis attending the trip will work with Helping Other People Excel (HOPE) ministries, a non-profit organization that strives to prevent homelessness. That morning they will be unloading food trucks and helping with a food drive.

Later that evening, they will assist bands with equipment set up at the annual Jambalaya Jam and hand out United Way flyers.

The Jambalaya Jam is sponsored by local businesses and provides live entertainment and a yearly jambalaya contest. The proceeds from the event benefit the Capital Area United Way, which provides funds for opportunities in education, income, health and basic needs.

“The trip is a great opportunity to show the guys that fall break is a great time to give back to the community,” Owens said. “Fraternities are about doing service, and helping to make people better.”

The trip was open to all members, whether or not they were initiated. Owens said it is the first chance the new guys to really bond with the older members.

One of Fiji’s pledges, Mt. Washington sophomore Robert Lucas, will be attending the trip instead of heading home for fall break.

“I just think it is a really good chance to do fun community service,” Lucas said. “It’s community service you wouldn’t normally get to do.”

Both Whitaker and Owens agree this trip is not only a chance to bond as a brotherhood but also to make personal growth from the beneficial acts of service.