Fraternity honors George Washington Carver with service day

By Debby Woodin, Joplin Globe

Residents are reviving operations at the Community Service Center of Joplin, and a volunteer fraternity group that visited over the weekend furthered that cause.

Members of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc. traveled to Joplin to conduct a service project Friday at the center ahead of a public ceremony Saturday that honored an early member of the fraternity, George Washington Carver. They refreshed the interior of the building with a new coat of paint.

“One of the things we do is service work,” said Eric Wells of Kansas City. “We emphasize service to try to give back.”

George Washington Carver joined the fraternity in 1920 when he was at the Tuskegee Institute. The fraternity members along with Carver parks staff and others held a ceremony Saturday at Carver National Monument to pay respect to Carver’s legacy of public service in recognition of his association with the fraternal brotherhood.

In addition, the fraternity used the occasion to hold an “Every Kid in a Park” day.

“We are bringing some kids here from Kansas City to the Carver (National) Monument so they can get that experience and foster the same ideas as George Washington Carver to let them know they can be a scientist or anything they want to be,” Wells said.

The fraternity has existed 105 years and still has Carver’s membership in its records.

Helping other communities is a way of strengthening all communities as well as paying it forward, said Kenyea Black of Springfield.

“Our motto for our organization is ‘Culture for Service, Service for Humanity,’ so basically what that means to us is we like to come into every community that we might be a part of, or even not be a part of, and leave it a little bit better than before we ever arrived,” he said. “We want to be good community stewards.”

Another volunteer, Larry Fennell from Olathe, Kansas, is a lifelong member who joined Phi Beta Sigma in 1988 while attending Wichita State University. He said its members were upbeat and strove to provide positive role models by mentoring young people.

“Somebody took the time a long time ago to direct me,” he said. “And now I am doing what I am supposed to do by reaching in and directing someone else” toward a productive life.