Greeks travel south for volunteer work, not partying

Spending the week in Panama City was not the only popular spring break activity for Greeks this year. While still traveling south of the Midwest, members of a few University Greek organizations spent their 2010 spring break volunteering instead of participating in the traditional party scene.

Stephanie Diamond, junior in ACES, coordinated the sorority Pi Beta Phi’s trip to Foley, Ala., this past week. Fourteen girls from the house road-tripped to Alabama to work with Habitat for Humanity to fix up and deconstruct houses.

“We didn’t actually build a house, but we did a lot of dirty work,” she said.

For one house, the girls did tasks like painting, pulling out carpeting and digging trenches for electrical wiring. Diamond also said that her group ended up helping in the deconstruction of another house. She said they did this by removing items of value from the house so that they could be sold by Habitat for Humanity for a profit.

“We took out a lot of things that I didn’t think were of value, like an entire kitchen island from one house,” she said.

Although her group was comprised entirely of women, it didn’t stop them from getting a lot done.

“We got a lot of comments about us being women,” Diamond said. “It was shocking that we got as much work done as we did, so we were really proud of ourselves.”

On the opposite end, an all-male group of 53 from the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity spent their spring break volunteering with Habitat for Humanity in Miami, Fla.

Kyle Koster, senior in ACES, worked with the organization in Miami on previous spring breaks and organized Sigma Phi Epsilon’s trip this year.

“The reason we go back to Miami every year is because we really enjoy the people and the culture down there,” he said.

Koster said they’ve built some really strong relationships with the people in Miami. In terms of the work they’ve done, Koster’s chapter has accomplished a lot on their trips.

“My sophomore year we showed up with 50 guys,” Koster said. “We started with just a slab of concrete and by the end of the week we were dry-walling a house.”

Besides helping out the community of Miami, Koster said the trip also served as a great way for members of the fraternity to really get to know each other.

“My freshman year, I went down with 10 of the guys in my class not knowing anyone,” Koster said. “Afterward, they ended up becoming some of my best friends.”

Diamond’s group also set out to do more than just serve a community in need of help. Going on the trip was a tribute to the Greek community and a reflection of her house and its values, she said.

“I would consider it the true college experience and I think everyone should do it,” she said.

Carly Neville, a member of the Gammi Phi Beta sorority and a sophomore in FAA, also spent her spring break volunteering. Neville traveled to New Orleans, La., through University Housing with 40 other University students. They worked with Habitat for Humanity, helping to build housing in the parts of the Upper 9th Ward affected by Hurricane Katrina.

“Personally, for me, I felt that my time and my money was way more well-spent by doing something like that,” she said.

Neville said they worked some days from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., but the time passed quickly because the people from Habitat for Humanity were so motivating. She added that, regardless of the amount of work done, the best part of traveling to New Orleans was the sense of accomplishment she had by just helping out.

“They were really great about teaching you things, whether or not you had ever picked up a hammer before,” she said. “People forget that Katrina happened five to six years ago, and there’s still so much to be done.”