Reaching out with service, friendship

Theresa Edwards

Alpha Phi Omega members, rushees volunteer through social activities

Alpha Phi Omega rush Juli Sabistina, sophomore fashion merchandising major, observes rush Caitlin Szczepinski, sophomore criminal justice major, try her luck at poker game held in Twin Towers Thursday evening. Participants were asked to bring in a canned

Credit: Carl Schierhorn

Last night Alpha Phi Omega fraternity members got together to play poker as a part of rush week. But instead of using cash as a buy-in, each player was required to bring a can of food. The food was collected and donated.

Service projects and social gatherings like this one are held frequently as a way for fraternity members to get to know each other and form bonds, said Pat Snyder, junior hospitality and management major and president of Alpha Phi Omega.

They chose to have it this way because they’re a serious organization, he said, but there are fun prizes like candy and gift certificates. They use service projects as an opportunity to get to know each other and form friendships, which are important to the fraternity.

“Friendship is one of our key principles,” he said. “But we call it fellowship.”

Snyder said most of the fraternity members look for brotherhood and the willingness to do service.

“It’s basically doing, like, say play volleyball or something like that, except we’re doing a service project,” he said. “It’s time we spend together. It’s the common bond we have.”

Other events during the semester, such as food banks and campus and community cleanups, provide similar opportunities. But the poker event is one of the rush events they’re using to get new brothers.

Snyder said the fraternity has minimum requirements, and members can attend as many or as few events as they want.

Pledge classes are also a way for members to bond. He said icebreakers are a good way to get to know everyone’s name, and the classes are a way for new members to understand the fraternity.

He said they also have social gatherings separate from the service projects. They attend basketball games and other sporting events and plan a formal with campus chapters from other schools.

Weekly dinners are also a good way for members to become acquainted, he said.

“After spending so much time together, we seem to be forming a bond, and these people, they become a family,” Snyder said.

Aside from service projects and social gatherings, the fraternity also sets up a big-little system. Current members get assigned as a “big” to a new member. The bigs’ jobs are to help the new members learn and make friends within the fraternity.

Katherine Tweedy has been a member of Alpha Phi Omega for a year. The rush chair and senior philosophy and biological sciences major joined during Spring 2005. She said she heard about the group from her friends, and she joined because she wanted to make a difference.

“You look at the faces of the people we helped and it just makes you feel so good,” she said.

She likes that the fraternity holds so many events and socials so she can get to know everyone. She said she thinks the members are a great bunch of people, and that helps to build the instantaneous bond she feels while with them.

“Once you pledge, you form bonds with these people,” she said. “You don’t have to try at it.”

She said there are many reasons people pledge, but staying with the fraternity is different.

“You join maybe because it’s going to look good on your resume, or because you want to get more involved,” she said. “But you stay because your brothers are amazing.”

Contact features reporter Theresa Edwards at [email protected].