When people think of Greek life, many different scenarios come to mind. But what some people don’t realize is that one of the main parts of being Greek is doing community service and giving back through various service projects.

Gannon University students are heavily involved in community service projects, and this applies to students who are Greek just as much as to the general community.

There are five social fraternities and five social sororities on campus, and each has either a national philanthropy, a local philanthropy or both.

For example, sorority Phi Sigma Sigma’s national philanthropy is the Phi Sigma Sigma Foundation, which benefits the National Kidney Foundation.

Each year, to raise money for their philanthropy, the ladies hold their annual “Rock-a-Thon,” in which they sit in rocking chairs all day at the local mall and collect money from those who are passing by. Their local philanthropy is “Linked by Pink,” a group that raises awareness for breast cancer.

Fraternity Delta Sigma Phi’s national philanthropy is the American Red Cross. To raise money, the members did a date auction, in which several of the guys were “bid” on. The bidding started at $10, and the highest bid was for more than $100. Overall, the members of Delta Sigma Phi raised more than $1,000 from the date auction.

Other fraternities and sororities have raised money in various ways for their service projects and philanthropies. For example, sorority Alpha Sigma Tau recently hosted a spaghetti dinner to raise money for their national service project Habitat for Humanity.  The plates of spaghetti cost $3, and a profit of about $300 was made.

Junior physician assistant major Heather Ropelewski, who serves as philanthropy chair of AST, said she finds it very rewarding to work with Habitat for Humanity.

“It’s actually a lot of fun to get to do such hands-on work,” she said. “How many people can say that they’ve literally helped put together a house for those who are less fortunate?”

The Greek community raised more than $8,900 for philanthropies during the 2008-2009 academic year, according to Gannon’s Greek 200 survey results. In addition, the university’s sororities completed more than 1,900 hours of community service while the fraternities completed more than 2,200 hours during the academic year.

Tammy Fritz, program coordinator for Gannon’s Center for Social Concerns, said volunteering is beneficial to everyone, not only when done as a specific group of people. For example, many Greeks participate singularly in the “Big Brothers/Big Sisters” program with neighboring schools in the Erie area.

“Volunteering is a great way to give back to the community and also to grow as a person,” she said. “Many times, students gain much more than they give when doing service. When students who are part of Greek organizations on campus participate in a service project, they are developing many different skills and help others do the same.”

Ropelewski said that television shows and movies often portray members of fraternities and sororities in a negative light, but in reality, they spend a lot of time giving back to the community.

“I think that everyone should get more involved in service projects,” she said. “It teaches people how lucky they are, and it’s such a great feeling to help out.”

Interested in more info about how students get involved with service at Gannon? Check out this piece on student involvement in ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”