BLACKSBURG, Va., April 16, 2008 – Digging in the dirt may not seem a particularly inviting way to perform community service, but grime doesn’t daunt the sisters of Virginia Tech’s Chi Delta Alpha Service Sorority.
After planting flowers all across the Roanoke/New River Valley region last spring as part of the Hometown Healing Project to honor those we lost April 16, they say they agreed the response from the community made it well worth the effort.
“It brought together so many different people,” said sorority president, Erica Faulhaber. She says this project integrated the community at a time when it was desperate for cohesion. On April 28, 2007, the sorority worked with Hometown Industries, of the Virginia Tech Service-Learning Center, and other student volunteers to plant orange and maroon coleus, geraniums, zinnias, and other flowers at numerous community centers, municipal locations, and non-profit organizations. Faulhaber said local businesses donated plants for the effort.
Although Chi Delta Alpha has a Greek letter name, it is not a Greek sorority and does not receive any national funding. Established by Virginia Tech student Angi Ma Wong during the 1960s, the organization evolved in response to her perceived need for a women’s service initiative on campus. “She felt that if the guys could do it, we could do it,” says Faulhaber.
Grown from a handful of women to a current roster of about 36 active sisters, Chi Delta Alpha attracts young women who seem willing to tackle almost anything.
The organization’s premier event is Service Day, a project comparable to the Student Government Association’s Big Event. This year, Service Day was held on April 12. Sisters worked in advance to find projects in the community for the big day. Chi Delta Alpha invited organizations from all over campus to participate. Volunteers divided into groups and went out into the community to do service. Last year, participants completed more than 300 hours of service.
The sorority also holds a benefit concert each fall, with profits gifted to a charity of choice. Last year’s proceeds were donated to the Free Clinic of the New River Valley.
These women say they stay busy all year round. Some members work with the on-campus Women’s Center on Thursdays for “Kids Night Out,” a movie and popcorn evening for children of graduate students. The activity gives the students a weekly break from having to juggle the pressures of being a student and a parent.
Other annual highlights include participation in The Clothesline Project and Take Back the Night. There are sisters who practice with and mentor Special Olympics participants, tutor grade-school kids, and work with the Service-Learning Center. Others put together SHARE food packages, help out at animal shelters, staff Red Cross blood drives, and perform various duties at the Head Start locations in both Christiansburg and Radford. The sisters were also active in supporting and promoting the kickoff of VT-ENGAGE in October 2007.
The sorority is also pursuing new endeavors. One project, “Best Buddies,” is a program that will match a sister with a special needs child to enjoy a weekly one-on-one activity time. Another new venture, “Pen Pals,” in conjunction with Literacy Corp, is a letter-writing project that aligns participants with a role model while simultaneously helping them improve their writing skills. Plans are just starting for an engagement with a local hospice group. Volunteers will be able to help with projects, crafts, and goodies for patients, as well as with various administrative duties.
Chi Delta Alpha say that making a difference is what it’s all about. Faulhaber said that when she is not engaged in some sort of community outreach effort, she feels like something is missing. “You don’t realize how much you have until you see how much is needed out there,” she reflected. “It really puts things in perspective.”
Written by Sharon Crane.