“Meaningful service while being safe”: How service fraternities and sororities are adapting

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University of Connecticut service fraternities and sororities remain dedicated to give to their communities as they switch to social distancing service events.  

The service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega created virtual synchronous, asynchronous and in-person social distancing events for its members, said Kelly-Anne Moffa, one of the service vice presidents for Alpha Phi Omega.  

“The challenges of switching to virtual events was primarily finding events to do that would still offer meaningful service while being safe during this pandemic,” Moffa said. “Another challenge was coordinating times with members; some of our members stayed home this semester and they are from across the country in different time zones, so aligning with everyone’s schedules has been difficult.” 

“Our sisters all have been working hard and diligently to help give back to our service in one way or another.” 

Gamma Sigma Sigma, a service sorority, has been meeting biweekly using Google Meets to plan service events, said Talia Milardo, Gamma Sigma Sigma public relations officer, said  

“Our sisters all have been working hard and diligently to help give back to our service in one way or another,” Milardo said.  

A service fraternity or sorority differs from other Greek organizations because their primary focus is giving back to the community and being a service to others, Moffa said. 

“While they may be organizations that provide social activities and bonding among members, service is at the forefront of their mission,” Moffa said. “This certainly embodies what [Alpha Phi Omega] is because one of our cardinal principles is to be of service to others. Over one-third of our fraternity events are service events.”  

Two live, virtual events Alpha Phi Omega is having this semester are Free Rice competitions and dog toy making. Moffa said the Free Rice competitions donate to the World Food Programme, a United Nations organization dedicated to ending world hunger. Moffa said it’s not a formal competition but more of a fun way to spend time with members and help raise money at the time. 

“The Free Rice competitions are held for an hour over WebEx, and our members try to achieve the most amount of ‘rice’ within that time in any category of trivia they choose,” Moffa said. “On Free Rice, for every question you get right, the equivalent in dollars of 5 grains of rice is donated to the World Food Programme.”  

For dog toy making, Alpha Phi Omega members meet over WebEx to follow a tutorial on how to make dog toys from old t-shirts, Moffa said.  

“This year, we collected completed toys from brothers who live on/near campus to donate to the Mansfield Animal Shelter and members who live at home donated their completed toys to local shelters near them,” Moffa said. 

Gamma Sigma Sigma recently had a virtual meeting in which members created posters for an anti-bullying campaign, Milardo said.  

“We wanted to share the posters throughout social media, as this is one of our main causes this year for service,” Milardo said.  

For asynchronous events, Alpha Phi Omega has two main events, Smithsonian Digital Transcribing and Color a Smile, in which members can complete their service hours on their own time, Moffa said. 

For Smithsonian Digital Transcribing, members help the researchers at the Smithsonian Transcribing Center review historical documents. For Color a Smile, Alpha Phi Omega members can fill in coloring pages from the Color a Smile website. The drawings will be distributed to senior citizens and troops overseas. For every three drawings or every three transcriptions, members receive one service hour.  

Moffa said Alpha Phi Omega has been able to maintain one of their usual in-person events: campus clean ups. A maximum of eight members are allowed to sign up and must follow social distancing protocols with masks at all times. 

“We meet outside at various spots around campus and pick up litter,” Moffa said. “Members who live at home can also receive a service hour for picking up litter around their neighborhood and sending us a picture of them doing so.”  

Alpha Phi Omega is also giving members one service hour for voting, which they offer every election, Moffa said. 

“Giving a service hour for voting is important because it encourages our members to participate in the election process,” Moffa said. “Whether they vote by mail or go in person, we think it’s important that our members exercise that right and make their voices heard.”  

“Whether they vote by mail or go in person, we think it’s important that our members exercise that right and make their voices heard.”  

Moffa said asynchronous events may continue within Alpha Phi Omega even after they can resume in person meetings.  

“I think some of the asynchronous events may stay past [COVID-19] times because it offers our members some flexibility with service hours,” Moffa said. “During regular semesters it can be challenging for members who have full schedules to attend events and therefore meet their service requirements, but these service opportunities that people can complete on their own time could be a solution to that.”  

Milardo said it’s been difficult to bond over Google Meets and the sorority is looking forward to the day when they can have chapter meetings in person again.  

“Although we all miss each other, we know it’s better to chat virtually so social events have been a challenge for us, as we are used to doing stuff together in person,” Milardo said. 

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