Coronavirus distancing restrictions couldn’t keep fraternities and sororities at MTSU from using online tools to continue their annual support of a popular student resource.
As part of the annual Greek Week Celebration, MTSU Fraternity and Sorority Life sponsored an almost weeklong fundraising challenge that brought in $3,163 through online donations for the MTSU Student Food Pantry, a free resource of nonperishable food items for any enrolled student in need.
“We’re hopeful that the funds raised by Fraternity and Sorority Life can bless the students at MTSU,” said FSL Director Leslie Merritt, who worked with FSL coordinator Jordan Borchert in helping Greek organizations after initial plans for the week had to be abandoned.
MTSU graduating senior Meggan Cole, chair of this year’s Greek Week activities and member of Alpha Omicron Pi sorority, said the friendly competition among participating teams included online activities such as an Instagram trivia contest and a virtual bake-off competition.
Because distancing guidelines wouldn’t allow the traditional accumulation of canned goods and perishable items to deliver directly to the pantry, this year’s drive focused on raising funds through a challenge competition using the Venmo digital wallet platform. Competing teams earned a certain number of points per donation to determine the top three teams to receive FSL awards.
This year’s overall Greek Week theme was “Greekelodeon!” The winning team of “the Blue Barracudas” was comprised of Zeta Tau Alpha, Phi Beta Sigma, Alpha Tau Omega and Sigma Alpha Epsilon.
“I cannot believe that it blew up as much as it did, and I think it’s great that so many people got involved with it,” said Cole, a Knoxville native majoring in exercise science. “It was really exciting seeing the teams giving so much.”
Cole said participating in this year’s fundraising challenge was also personally important for her because she and her roommate had to use the pantry a few years ago when their financial reserves dried up just a few weeks after Cole had helped with that year’s pantry drive.
“It was definitely a full circle moment and I wanted to keep giving back … because it literally saved me for two weeks and helped me and my roommate out a ton,” she said.
Even though the university remains in a remote learning environment, bags of food and hygiene products are still available for students who go to the MT One Stop counter on the second floor of the Student Services and Admissions Center. Students are not allowed in the pantry itself, but instead receive food and supplies at the counter.
Like many MTSU staff, MT One Stop outreach coordinator Danielle Rochelle, who oversees the pantry, is working primarily from home. But she visits campus once a week to make sure the pantry is stocked properly, and the Greek Week funds will particularly help replenish the supplies of hygiene products that have become more in demand.
“In the beginning when students were coming into the pantry, the hygiene products weren’t taken as often, and now with this happening, we’re seeing that students need more of those type of items,” Rochelle said. “I think this wonderful donation will make a big impact in that area.”
“Something I find really powerful is the dedication fraternity and sorority organizations have when it comes to giving back, especially to a worthwhile cause,” said Borchert. “Normally they can help through hands-on donations, but during this time it really shows how much our students value helping when they can raise that much money in a week.”
— Jimmy Hart (Jimmy.Hart@mtsu.edu)