This Thanksgiving holiday, organizations across the nation saw an uptick in services needed brought on by the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. That is when Brother Musse Yimer Virginia Tech ’20 decided to step up and help his local community. “I posted my idea on Facebook, made a few calls and before I knew it, we had donated $20,000 worth of food.”
The idea of doing a service project sparked from a conversation Yimer was having with his brothers. “We were talking about donating to a homeless shelter,” said Yimer. “After posting my idea on Facebook, we began planning the logistics.”
After determining the logistics, Yimer thought of a simple way students could donate to the campaign. “With students going home earlier this year because of Covid-19, we knew many students would forfeit their unused dining dollars. I began to explore the programs Virginia Tech offered students to donate their unused dining dollars to support local food pantries. After finding out the programs had become dormant, I contacted the managers of the cafeteria to see if we could purchase food using unused dining dollars. They agreed that we could purchase bulk food items using dining dollars, all we had to do is email them the items we wished to purchase.”
After rallying students on campus to donate their unused dining dollars, Yimer and his brothers consider the food drive a success. “All together, we ended up hosting three separate drives. In the first drive we hosted, we donated pre-packaged meals from the school cafeteria to a low-income senior community. We were very careful with how many people encountered the food to limit the spread of Covid-19. During the second drive, brothers and I took three full carloads of food to a local food bank. And with the final drive, we collected frozen meats, vegetables and bread to a different food bank in a nearby community.”
However, Yimer and the brothers of Virginia Zeta didn’t stop there. They continued to accept donations after the Thanksgiving holiday. “We just donated 720 granola bars to a local elementary school for their backpack program. The program allows children whose family may not have the financial resources, to fill a backpack full of food to take home over the weekend. After donating all the food and granola bars, I still have between $6-7,000 worth of food to donate.”
They were even surprised to be turned away on a subsequent visit from one organization. “After the holiday, some brothers and I took additional items to the food bank. Once we got there, they turned away our donation. Since we had donated so much food in our initial donation, their storage space was at capacity. I couldn’t believe that we had donated so much food to an organization that they turned away another donation.”
While this is Yimer’s first year organizing the food drive, he and his brothers hope to continue next year and increase their donation amount. “Since we are in the midst of Covid-19, I was limited to how I asked people to donate due to social distancing rules. We sent emails out to students asking them to donate their unused dining dollars to the campaign. My hope is for next year, I can ask people in-person to donate to the cause which in return will yield a higher donation amount.
By hosting the food drive, Yimer is aiming to break the stereotype that fraternities often have by the community. “Not only in the Blacksburg area but other college towns across America, there are stereotypes that fraternities have with the community. Movies have painted a bad picture of fraternities and I hope by showcasing The Great Joy of Serving Others, my chapter can break the stereotype and build relationships in the community.”
It is through alumni support that our chapters – and brothers like Musse – are able to make the greatest impact in lives and communities across the country. Make a gift now in support of Phi Psi.