Over the holiday season, the Alpha Beta chapter at the University of Rhode Island decided to give back to a family in need; now they have advice for SDT chapters across the country to give back all year long.
Chapter President Mariel Casali says that over the Thanksgiving and Christmas season, her chapter decided they wanted to adopt a family that was in need. The idea came to Casali because it is something she used to do in high school each year, and she always cherished the experience. “I knew if the idea were introduced to my chapter, they would love it,” she says, “I was right, too, because when it was, each sister got involved as much as they could.”
Casali explains that to get the process started, she reached out to an old teacher that she knew was involved in the adopt-a-family program. She was informed that a seven-person family, consisting of a mother, father and five children, was in dire need. The family of seven was going through a financial crisis and on the verge of being evicted from their home.
The chapter set up a GoFundMe page to begin raising money, and quickly raised over $2,000. They also took advantage of weekly Panhellenic meetings to ask other sororities on campus if they’d like to donate food for a Thanksgiving basket they would give to the family. “The basket had a plethora of non-perishable food for a Thanksgiving dinner, a $50 Stop and Shop gift card so they were able to buy a turkey, thanksgiving-themed napkins, plates, and a pie for dessert,” says Casali. In addition to the basket, which would last the family much longer than just Thanksgiving dinner, the chapter bought each family member gifts related to things they were interested in. They also gave each member of the family a winter jacket, snow boots, a hat and gloves. The chapter gave the family a $200 Visa gift card with the money that was left over from their fundraising.
“Our chapter does a lot of community service and giving back, but what we did for this family left an impact on all of us,” says Casali. “It allowed each of us to focus on what is most important during the holidays, rather than being caught up in the chaos of the season.” She notes that this experience brought her chapter closer together and also helped each of them appreciate what they have. “We realized then more than ever that we have the power to do so much for those in need. It was truly an amazing feeling,” she says.
Casali recommends this method of giving back to chapters across the country, even if they may be small chapters. She explains that there are smaller families to adopt or organizations that’ll allow you to adopt people, and recommends reaching out in your community to organizations, churches, or schools to get involved in the adopt a family program. Her advice to chapters interested in doing this is to stay organized and manage the money you raise wisely; she recommends focusing on what families who have nothing will need the most when buying. Of the experience, Casali says, “What we have learned so far about giving back is something we will have with us forever and is something we will be able to pass on to people we meet.”
By Kelly Potts, Gamma Xi-Montclair State University (2015). Kelly is a volunteer writer for Sigma Delta Tau.