Alpha Phi Omega leaves Post-it notes to brighten lives

Mystery solved! Take down the “Wanted” posters because the mystery Post-it poster has been identified. The culprit is Alpha Phi Omega, a coed national service fraternity that has its Alpha Alpha chapter on the University of Illinois campus.

Last week, I wrote about bright orange Post-it notes that I found stuck around Lincoln Hall.

At that time, it was a mystery as to who put them there, but with help from Facebook, I pulled a Nancy Drew and cracked the case.

Here is how the mystery played out: A member of Alpha Phi Omega posted my article on its Alpha Alpha Facebook page. The person asked if the Post-it notes were placed by APO, or if another group did the deed.

Cassie Griffith, fifth year undergraduate student in LAS, and Rachel Bessonny, junior in Business, both APO members, confirmed that it was APO. It came to my attention when my roommate’s sister, also a member of APO, identified me as the author.

I was thrilled when I found out who left the Post-it notes in Lincoln Hall. My theories in my last column about pop culture influences did not turn out to be true, but the real story behind the Post-it notes turned out to be better and more personable than my “Pay It Forward” theory.

Griffith began the Post-it note service project for APO.

She proposed the idea to her friend in APO a year ago when her grandma fell ill. In fact, the entire project was inspired by her grandma, Susan Griffith.

Susan was a stay-at-home mom on a selfless, pay-it-forward mission. She believed in brightening other people’s days through simple acts of kindness with no recognition in return. Every December, it became a tradition that she would do a kind act a day, increasing the impact each day.

“The goal is to try to make someone’s life better in a small way; just make them smile, make them laugh, take them out of their everyday routine without expecting anything in return,” Cassie said.

Susan bought a family’s meal at a restaurant by paying for her meal first, then instructing the cashier that she would also pay for the family behind her anonymously.

Sometimes she would go to a store to buy a meal, give the meal to a homeless person, then leave before the homeless person could learn her name. She would even pay parking tickets that she found on people’s cars.

Cassie was inspired by her grandma and wanted to help with these good deeds. As Cassie grew up with her grandma, there were always children in Susan’s home. Susan helped watch over children whose families were dealing with difficult times.

Susan passed the tradition to Cassie’s mother, and Cassie’s mother passed the tradition to Cassie.

“My grandma helped raise me,” Cassie said. “She was a very selfless person. She did a lot of things for other people without getting any credit.”

At the time Cassie proposed the idea to APO, her grandma had passed away. Monday was the anniversary of Susan’s death.

But there is no sign of this tradition stopping as the project has become very popular in the APO group. More people sign up for it than there are spots available in the sign-up page for service projects on the APO website.

APO members meet about once a week at the Student Organization Complex in the Illini Union. Volunteers have no guidelines for what to write.

Sometimes the Post-it notes are covered in inspirational quotes, funny pick-up lines or song lyrics. Each volunteer writes about 20 messages.

Then, the group walks together to the Main Quad and picks a building that has lots of foot traffic to leave their Post-it notes. Whichever building is chosen, the group leaves notes on every floor.

Bessonny participated in the service project recently. Since Thanksgiving break is approaching, she left a note that said, “Thanksgiving break is 16 days away. The turkey is calling!”

“It’s just a very, like, general, simple thing that’s easy to put a smile on someone’s face,” Bessonny said.

Bessonny realizes how the Post-it notes allow personalities to be expressed in a beneficial way. Each note is different depending on who writes the message. For instance, the group tries to come up with funny chemistry jokes for buildings on the northeast side of the Quad.

Last week, the Post-it notes were a pleasant surprise — random acts of kindness from strangers. Now there is a face linked to the Post-it note poster. Cassie continues her grandma’s tradition with her fellow volunteers in APO. Through their efforts, Post-it notes will continue to appear across campus to make days seem a little brighter.

Rebecca is a junior in Media. She can be reached at [email protected]