Our sorority bill comes in two parts.  The first part is the “house bill”, that’s the one that makes my husband suck in his breath each time we pay it and do the happy dance after the last check is mailed each semester.  The second part is  the “purchase fund account”.  This pays for t-shirts, sunglasses and any other item that is made to celebrate an occasion, whether is a swap. date party, philanthropy day..you name it they make some thing to remember it by.  We put $300 a semester in this account.  As our daughter orders they debit the account until it gets under $100…where at that point they hit my husbands credit card for $100 and fill it up again.  My poor husband had a mini melt down over this recently when he discovered that we had already used $500 this semester on “stuff”.  The t-shirt that put him over the edge was one for Philanthropy Day….celebrating the Ronald McDonald House and a pancake breakfast my daughter’s sorority was holding in order to raise monies.  You see, The Ronald McDonald House is her sorority’s philanthropy and so several times a year they do some sort of fundraiser to benefit the one located near her school.

That got me thinking about all the “extra” things she participates in that are philanthropic in nature.  As my husband was holding his head in his hands trying to understand this last t-shirt purchase I was trying to explain to him that being involved with this particular philanthropy was important, mostly because it was teaching our daughter to give selflessly.  After 4 years of “being involved” I really feel like this will groom her to continue to reach out and “help” as an adult.

Since I had him as a “captive audience” at his desk I launched into what he calls my sorority “rah rah” speech.  Hmmm….since I have you as a captive audience I think I will share my speech with you as well.

So many people ask, “Why a sorority?  Isn’t that a lot of money to pay for your daughter to drink and party?  I’ve heard that there is hazing involved?  Do YOU really want your daughter to be a part of such a shallow, superficial system”?  Unfortunately these people have only seen the “media” portrayed side of sorority and fraternity life.  This racy, indulgent lifestyle sells movie and tv time is much more entertaining to watch but really overshadows all of the philanthropic good done by sorority and fraternity members across the US and the world.

Now I don’t live with my head in the sand…I know that behaviors such as drinking and partying do occur.  But for every one of these incidences of questionable behavior there are hundreds of stories that go unnoticed about sorority women (and fraternity men) who are out in communities across the US and the world “doing good works” in the name of philanthropy and giving back to others.  All Greek organizations support both National philanthropies as well as local causes.  This support installs in its members a sense of service, giving to others and in the process these young people learn about something greater than themselves.

From the time my children were small “giving to others” was preached in our home.  As parents they witnessed us giving selflessly to others.  When they were old enough they came with us to serve Thanksgiving meals in soup kitchens, volunteer to rake yards of the elderly, collect books for needy children…too many events to list but each on important in its own right.  Both my husband I agree that our experiences as “Greeks” on our respective college campuses reinforced “giving to others” and of course we too wanted to share this sense of commitment to service with our children.

I am proud to say that each one (we have 4) has developed the “giving” trait.  When our oldest arrived at college (she did not go Greek..it was a very small presence on her Ivy League campus and just not the right “fit for her) she immediately jumped into volunteering at a school in the inner city.  She was involved in countless activities and events and continues today (she is 32), having spent a month in Malawi volunteering at an orphanage and currently working for a non for profit that is building water wells.

Daughter number 2 did go Greek on her campus and again immediately embraced her sorority’s philanthropy.  In this case it was the Alzheimer Association.  Since both of my husbands grandmothers had this disease she felt very connected to the cause.  As a Junior and Senior she helped organize the Relay for Life event on her campus.  As an adult she continues to support her sorority’s philanthropy but has also participated in many different philanthropic events in the DC area where she now resides.

Our son attends a Catholic University in Chicago.  He chose not to go Greek but non the less is also involved on campus.  He has enjoyed being involved in  several events to support the aid to the homeless and volunteers in the inner city as a football coach.

Our youngest daughter loved Philanthropy Day when she went through formal recruitment!  She called when the first day was over and gushed about how she made little felt buddies that would fit on IV poles and flower pots with dum dum suckers to sit on the tables of the Ronald McDonald house.  I wasn’t surprised when she pledged that she counted the days until her first philanthropy event.  She too threw herself into being involved not only in her sorority’s philanthropy but embracing all of the other sorority’s different events on campus.  She became the Relay for Life team captain, working hard to encourage her sisters to participate in this worthwhile event.

My most proudest moment comes in the light of a tragedy that hit the town where my daughters college calls home.  You see, our youngest attends The University of Alabama.  On April 27th of last year a massive tornado hit the town of Tuscaloosa.  In the minutes before the tornado tore down 15th street, just a little less than a mile from my daughter’s dorm, I was on the phone with her, reassuring her that I loved her and praying for her safety.  She was in an inside bathroom on a lower floor of the dorm, covered by mattresses that had been pulled off the beds, to protect her and the other young women, from the potential of falling debris should the dorm take a direct hit.  Thankfully my daughter and the University itself were spared but the people of Tuscaloosa suffered unimaginable tragedy and loss.  School was canceled the next day and students left campus to go home..away from Tuscaloosa and the destruction.  Greek men and women banded together and created an organization to help the community of Tuscaloosa.  They raised funds, collected toiletries, health care supplies, clothing and cooked and distributed meals.

Before she even left campus my daughter said , “Mom, I get to leave this and go home, to normalcy.  These people have to stay and deal with this on a day to day basis.  I want to do something for them..to give back to a community who gives so much support to Bama”.  And so… “Run For Tuscaloosa” was born.  My daughter and three other sorority sisters with help from several other sorority girls who live in our local area planned and executed a 5k whose proceeds would be donated to a fund set up the University called UA acts of Kindness.  This fund was made available to students, faculty and employees of the University who had loss due to the tornado.

From the time of its inception (the day after the tornado) until the actual event July 25, 2011 my daughter worked tirelessly finding sponsors, speaking on news broadcasts, creating the fliers and getting runners.   She put together a great committee of individuals who were a fantastic support and help.  She even reached out to Javier Arenas, a former Crimson Tide football player who now plays in the NFL for help.  He agreed immediately and secured 3 footballs autographed by Coach Nick Saba and a silent auction was born!  It was a huge job, not without bumps and roadblocks but everyone agreed it was worth it when at the conclusion of the race the money was counted and they had raised $11,000!!!!!  My daughter and her sisters were ecstatic!  Never in their wildest dreams had they thought that this would be their total.

So if you are wondering “why a sorority”, especially with the negative Greek news and stereotypes out there I encourage you to look a little deeper.  Look and find all of the great things Greeks all over the world are doing. You might be amazed at just how much they do!  These young men and women are living their creeds, their values and the rituals of their fraternities and sororities on a daily basis.

Recently a sister shared this quote with me: “Fraternity and Sorority members are not only encouraged and expected to do well, but also good.’

It is my hope that your daughters do both as well.