Greeks excelling at community service

Nathan Bottiger, Editor-in-Chief

Pitt-Johnstown fraternity and sorority members focus on more than just their social lives and gatherings, with some striving to go above and beyond for their community.

Sigma Tau Gamma President Joseph Rizkalla, junior, said his fraternity members recorded between 200 and 250 service hours last semester.

Rizkalla said a major portion of these service hours was spent renovating an abandoned Moxham warehouse that may be turned into a museum.

Sigma Tau brothers clean up the area, remove trees and debris, as well as sweep the floors and move old items from outside storage into the warehouse.

Rizkalla said, if the warehouse becomes a museum, it would help improve the Moxham community.

Rizkalla said two fraternity members are to risk the cold, participating in the Polar Plunge 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturday, which is to be held at the Quemahoning Reservoir.

The two members are to pay $50 each to jump into frigid waters, supporting the Special Olympics.

The event is run by the Pennsylvania’s state organization for Special Olympics, and other members from the fraternity are to help with the organization of the event.

Rizkalla said they do more local community services such as Light the Night Walk. The fraternity also cleans up an adopted highway and around Pitt-Johnstown’s  campus.

“I like the amount of community service that we do,” Rizkalla said.

“It helps to tie all of us together in a closer brotherhood and it allows us to give back to the community that has allowed us to grow and be who we are today.”

Another large contributor to the community service projects provides a primary focus on these projects with afterthoughts toward socializing.

Alpha Phi Omega Vice President of Fellowship Sam McGaha, sophomore, said their service fraternity averages 900 or more service hours a semester.

Last semester, McGaha rounded up to around 60 hours herself, and Junior Megan Knowles recorded around 70 hours individually.

McGaha said the fraternity requires each member to complete at least 15 hours, which is comprised of some group projects but also individual projects.

“You have to do at least one on your own.”

McGaha said individual projects include activities like being a liaison or working for community service organizations.

McGaha said Knowles completes her individual service hours volunteering at Highland Library.

McGaha said Alpha Phi Omega is also sending two participants to the Polar Plunge that Sigma Tau Gamma members are attending with similar support in organizing the event.

McGaha said another big event Alpha Phi Omega members participate in is the Heart Walk, which provides money to former fraternity member Sammy Scholl, who underwent a heart transplant.

The proceeds go toward her medical expenses. McGaha said once Scholl’s expenses have been paid for through future walks, the proceeds are to shift to another organization helping people in similar situations.

McGaha said, as a passive service project, the fraternity also collects soda pop tabs for the Ronald McDonald House charity.

McGaha said the organization is planning to start a possible traditional service project with Relay for Life next year.

She said the project is not certain, but it would provide the organization the ability to participate in an annual event, forming some type of legacy among organization members.

McGaha said participating in community service projects is a humbling experience.

“It makes me feel better to give back to less fortunate people,” she said, “knowing that you helped make their lives a little bit better.”