Combining three of the core values of OC Greek life – togetherness, tradition and service learning – students who are pledging to sororities and fraternities dedicated Saturday, Jan. 27 as Greek Service Day and leapt into action in Huron County, a rural, agriculture-based community. This was the eighth Greek Service Day, and this year students volunteered at the Michigan House of Hope Homeless Shelter and the Port Austin History Center. Nearly 100 Comets embarked on the 200-mile trip to lend a helping hand.
The Michigan House of Hope is in the process of converting an abandoned U.S. Air Force base into a homeless shelter, including an area damaged by a fire. “Olivet students helped to clear out debris from a fire that occurred in one of the buildings, sort through clothes for local donation, and helped prepare the buildings for the transformation process into apartments,” explained Jacob Richards, community service coordinator. In addition to a shelter and food pantry, the House of Hope also will offer drug and alcohol recovery programs, aimed to begin later this year.
Freshman Sidney McIntosh, a journalism and mass communication major pledging to the Sigma Beta sorority, had the chance to get hands-on with the Michigan House of Hope project. Sidney and her future sisters worked in the kitchen area for the shelter and helped prepare rooms for renovation. “It was really amazing and everyone was so thankful for us being there, they couldn’t stop saying thank you,” Sidney exclaimed. “It was really humbling and awesome to help out people in need. Port Austin is so beautiful and I’ll definitely make a trip back soon!”
Jacob also explained that the Port Austin area has a lack of industry, making it challenging for community members to find employment. The Port Austin History Center was established to help improve the local economy through tourism and is completely run by volunteers, as the House of Hope is as well. Students helped the History Center clean, organize and display their collection to prepare for peak tourist season arriving shortly.
Mike Fales ’75, assistant professor of interdisciplinary studies and religion, and director of service learning and campus ministries, returned to The University of Olivet in 1992 and has since served in a multitude of roles, but always stayed involved with Greek life. As a student, Professor Fales pledged to Adelphic Alpha Pi and has never forgotten the impact joining the fraternity had on him. Now, Professor Fales stays active with Greek life on campus to help mentor other students during a transformational time in their educational journey.
“This is the eighth year of this program where everyone pledging one of our Greek Societies gives up an entire day in service to people they do not know,” emphasized Professor Fales. “As pledging is only two weeks, this is a major gift from our students and the OC Inter-Society Council to those in need. At a time when the term pledging justifiably has a negative connotation, this is an example of our Greeks helping to make the world a better place. I do not know of any other college or university in the nation that does what we do.”
The University of Olivet is home to 11 Greek houses, including the oldest all-female collegiate society in the continental U.S., the first co-educational literary/social society in the nation, and many others with rich history. While each Greek organization has unique values and goals, every fraternity and sorority upholds a strong belief in service learning and giving back to their community.