April 23, 2001

Greeks Sponsor Weekend of Public Service to Community

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Members of Cornell’s fraternities and sororities enjoyed the warm weather this weekend outdoors by launching one of their largest community service projects of the year. The event, sponsored by Cornell’s Interfraternity and Panhellenic Councils, organized approximately 150 members of the Greek system to do a variety of projects, including painting, yard work, and a public awareness fair.

By the end of the weekend, the courtyard of the Lakeside Nursing Home was raked and planted with fresh flowers, the Kitchen Theater at the Clinton House, the gym at the Henry Saint James Building were painted, and environmental information booths at the annual Tompkins County Earth Day Fair were set up.

About 15 students volunteered to paint the gym at the Henry Saint James Building, which is used for community programs and after-school youth activities. According to Danielle Byno ’03, the public relations chair of the Alpha Omicron Pi sorority and a volunteer on the Henry Saint James building project, “with the hard work and dedication of the volunteers,” the painting took only two hours and will be ready for use today.

The organizers of the weekend’s event were extremely pleased by the impact that the service projects had on the community.

“It is important to show the community that the greek system is a positive force. The community gives [us] so much support that I think it is our responsibility to … give a little back in the form of projects,” said Jamie Porco ’03, the vice president for communications and university relations for the Panhellenic Council and a member of the Kappa Delta sorority.

Public Service Weekend marks the culmination of the Greek Challenge, a goal set by Cornell’s Greek system and OnSite Volunteer Services of Ithaca to complete 30,000 hours of community service by the end of the academic year. After this weekend, according to Porco, Greeks have almost reached their goal.

Much of the event’s success can be attributed to the strong desire of Greek members to do service projects, said Jason Conn ’03, the vice president of university and community relations, Interfraternity Council, and a member of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity.

“I think the turnout is a testament to the desire of Greek students to serve the community. So often, Greeks are seen in a negative light, but today’s event showed what we are really about,” Conn said.

The Greek community’s size also strengthened the projects’ impact. “We realized that with one-third of the student population, we have the manpower to support a major community service effort like Public Service Weekend. Also, members of many different chapters came together to accomplish the goal of giving back to our community, which is very rewarding to witness,” said Rebecca Walker ’02, president of the Panhellenic Council.

Some members of the Ithaca community expressed their support of the Greek system’s projects in the area.

“When I first came here [to the nursing home], I didn’t know what to expect. Now that I am here, I have met some of the nicest, most helpful people in the world. The students have done so much for us,” said Phil White ’33, a resident of the Lakeside Nursing Home and an alumnus of the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity.

The volunteers stressed that they were doing the community service projects because they enjoy helping out in the community.

“Doing community service is a great way to enjoy yourself and do work for the community at the same time. It was a beautiful day, not to mention it being Earth Day, and we were able to spend it outside doing so many projects,” said Kate Usdin ’02, vice president of finance for the Panhellenic Council and a member of the Alpha Chi Omega sorority.

The event was a joint effort between the Interfraternity and Panhellenic Councils and OnSite Volunteer Services of Ithaca. The Greek system provided the volunteers and publicity, while Itai Dinour ’01 from OnSite coordinated the individual projects with other community organizations. National and community sponsors, such as Campusfood.com, Half.com, and Soulgear.com provided food and funding to support each project.

After the overwhelming success of this event, organizers are already planning future events. According to Porco, Greek leaders are discussing expanding this event to include non-Greek volunteers.

“I think it would be great to see all members of the community come together in a joint effort to do a variety of projects, with Greek members at the helm,” Porco said.

Public Service Weekend also kicks off National Volunteer Week. All week long, OnSite Volunteer Services, Cornell Tradition, and Cornell University Public Service Center will be organizing interactive volunteer projects on the Ithaca Commons and Ho Plaza. Many campus organizations have projects planned for this week.

Archived article by Seth Harris