A record-breaking 780 members of Cornell Interfraternity Council, Panhellenic Council and Multicultural Greek Letter Council volunteered in multiple local community organizations on the Greek community’s largest day of service Saturday.
Greeks Give Back is a biannual day of service that has been on campus for two years after being called “Day of Demeter” for at least five years, according to Marielle Sheck ’19, vice president of university and community relations for the Panhellenic Council.
The community organizations served by the greeks this year include Salvation Army, Collegetown Cleanup, Cayuga Nature Center, Museum of the Earth, Tompkins County Public Library, Ithaca Children’s Garden, Tompkins County Public Health and the YMCA Outdoor Education, many of which already have connections with different chapters.
The most participants came from the Interfraternity Council, the largest council among the three, which had roughly 400 members volunteering to serve the community.
“Philanthropy is a fundamental pillar of Greek life at Cornell, and Greeks Give Back merely allows Greek students the avenue to carry out his commitment on a semesterly basis,” said Drew Lord ’18, president of the IFC
One of the newly-implemented charitable opportunities was a letter writing outreach program that allowed people to write letters addressing causes they care about. Based on a service organization called Letters Against Depression, the program created an opportunity for people who struggle with depression to request a written letter of support from a stranger anywhere in the world.
Luke Bianco ’19, vice president of university and community relations for the IFC, worked with the CEO of the organization to create a portal specifically for Cornell, which features stories about 50 people who suffer from mental health.
“We have created a way for people to volunteer from their houses because we want to challenge the notion that the only way to give back is doing manual labor,” Bianco said. “This program expands the reach to not only help the community here but also communities across the nation and world.”
Brittney Zamot ’19, a new member of the Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, spoke of her experience volunteering for Letters Against Depression.
“I got to pick who I want to write it to and it is important to let these people know that they are not alone and that things could get better,” she said.
Angela Sun ’19, vice president of university and community relations for MGLC, believes that being privileged and high up on the hill, Cornell students tend to lose accountability and misunderstand what service is.
“Service is about learning and reciprocity, as well as realizing that you are gaining just as much, if not more than, what you are giving to the communities,” Sun said. “It also fosters a good foundation of service within the Greek community.”
Bianco also pointed that that the Greek community is aware that the impact they have on the community is not always positive, but they wanted to make sure that on that day, the impact was extremely positive.
“Greeks Give Back is not to create a superficial image and promotion of ourselves that is not true, but it does give an option for people who are passionate about service to have a platform to do so,” he said.