Continuing charitable work in times of COVID-19

    By Ethan Gany and Kiera Wright, The Miami Hurricane; photo via @umiaminphc Instagram

    Following intensive fundraising efforts during Greek Week 2021 and a month of additional activities to support their various philanthropies and causes, University of Miami fraternities and sororities are celebrating their successes, even though pandemic restrictions forced them to find creative ways to come together to raise money.

    From beach cleanups to a recorded anatomy fashion show fundraiser on Lakeside Patio, Greek members shifted to give-back mode at a time when charities and nonprofit groups most need help during the pandemic.

    Sigma Delta Tau raised $27,000 toward preventing child abuse in America; Sigma Phi Epsilon raised more than $5,000 for Best Buddies Miami, which helps children with disabilities; and Sigma Chi raised more than $60,000 for the Huntsman Cancer Foundation.

    “We officially passed UPenn and became the number one Sigma Chi chapter nationally in total donations for our Derby Days efforts towards the Huntsman Cancer Foundation. This will help many peoples lives dramatically,” Zachary Slogoff, president of Sigma Chi, wrote in an email to The Miami Hurricane.

    “I love when everyone comes together to raise money,” said Kate Adler, a member of Sigma Delta Tau. “I’ve been involved in philanthropy my whole life, so it is definitely one of the most valuable parts about being in a sorority at UM.”

    In past years, the Phi Delta Epsilon Medical Fraternity raised money for its philanthropy, which benefits the Children’s Miracle Network and Nicklaus Children’s Hospital with ease. This year, the fraternity has had to adapt to find ways to raise money like never before.

    “We did Venmo boards to raise money, just told our family what we’re raising money for and got the money we needed, and then we all either painted or got painted like an organ system and we did a fashion show of it,” said Riley Hanes, a freshman public health and health science double major.

    Normally the annual fashion show is conducted in person at Lakeside, but because of campus COVID-19 restrictions, the show was recorded and aired via Zoom on April 1, said Riley Hanes, a new member of the fraternity and freshman public health a health science major from Baltimore.

    “This past Valentine’s Day, we wrote letters for the children at the hospital,” Reyes said. “It’s just cool because sometimes we get reactions of them opening it, and it makes it all worthwhile.”

    Sophomore organizes beach cleanup with fraternity and sorority volunteers

    With spring break taking place in March and April, South Florida beaches were littered with trash, but sophomore ecosystem science and policy major Esther Cai saw it as the perfect opportunity to organize beach cleanups.

    “Most marine debris, on any average day comes from falling out of the waste management system and stuff that gets washed in the storm drains,” Cai said.

    However, spring break, she said, is about a lot of people leaving around a lot of trash.

    Cai, who works for Debris Free Oceans, a Miami-based, nonprofit beach cleanup organization, solicited help from Lambda Chi Alpha through the group’s philanthropy chair, Jean Pierre Vilcherrez.

    “When Esther approached me with the idea, I fell in love with it,” said Vilcherrez, a junior management and marketing major. “Growing up, I’d always go to clean the beaches. Now that I’m philanthropy chair of Lambda, I’m able to not only make a change myself, but also get 40 other guys to be a part of it.”

    Vilcherrez and Cai, a member of Pi Beta Phi, also recruited Tri Delta and Chi Omega members to Crandon Beach, where they had two successful beach cleanups and collected 185 pounds of trash last month.

    Cai said she followed school COVID guidelines and created a system in which seven members per organization, two organizations at a time, would come every two hours, starting at 10 a.m., and go until 4 p.m. She also provided sanitized gloves.

    “Everything else sort of stayed the same,” Cai said. “It was just enforcing masks, social distancing and spreading everyone out and spacing them apart in terms of times.”

    Vilcherrez said he could not have imagined trying to do the cleanup without Cai.

    “Esther really helped us out a lot,” Vilcherrez said. “And I’m so thankful that she offered us this opportunity.”

    Cai says that since having these cleanups, several other campus groups, including UM Hillel and the Association of Greek Letter Organizations, have reached out to her, expressing interest in hosting more.

    Sustainability, Cai said, is important.

    “When we go out and do cleanups and stuff, it’s my home, in my community, that we’re giving back to, which is really awesome.”

    If student groups would like to organize a cleanup, Cai said they should direct message @debrisfreeoceans on Instagram or email hello@debrisfreeoceans.org.

    National Pan-Hellenic Council celebrates with step show on UC Patio

    Seated at tables on the UC Patio, students gathered recently to enjoy lively step show routines by black Greek organizations, music and each other’s company after enduring months of COVID-19 restrictions.

    Sponsored by the UM’s Pan-Hellenic Council, the March 19 soiree allowed the masked participants to feel a sense of community within a pandemic, said freshman Anandi Bien-Aime.

    “I came out tonight for the community, to be able to see my people and have a good time, safely of course,” Bien-Aime said. I’m having fun, and I feel like I’m a part of a group on campus.”

    The week of March 15-19 was National Pan-Hellenic week, designed to promote the National Pan-Hellenic Council, the umbrella organization of historically African-American Greek fraternities and sororities.

    In keeping with the spirit of the week, Miami’s council arranged several activities, including a Sunday church service, a financial literacy workshop, a raffle and a beach cleanup, said NPHC president Marckell Williams. “The Thump” concluded the festivities.

    “It’s just us playing music and having space for people to chill out for a little bit and jam and have a good time,” Williams said.

    Approximately 60 students attended the free 1 ½ hour event, which began at 7:30 p.m. Students watched performances of step routines by the Greek organizations and indulged in music and free meals from Chick-Fil-A afterwards.

    The council made efforts to make the event as safe as possible by enforcing social distancing, requiring facial masks and having the event outdoors. Williams said having events like The Thump are important since students do not have as many chances to get together because of COVID-19.

    “We’re still trying to give that outlet to people,” Williams said. “It’s been a long semester for a lot of people.”

    Bien-Aime said she appreciates the council’s efforts to maintain community within a pandemic, and that it is important for people to attend events like these, regardless of whether they are interested in pledging.

    “It’s a place where you can see people across the diaspora, and people who are interested in an aspect of black culture come together and enjoy themselves for a fun Friday night,” Bien-Aime said.