By Lawn Griffiths, for wranglernews.com
Eighty men strong, the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity at Arizona State University is a volunteerism force on the Valley landscape.
Ask the Tempe Salvation Army Corps, where a dozen “Fijis,” as they call themselves, have created a 350-square-foot shaded patio where homeless people may find respite and gather. For two days, they removed dirt and vegetation, deposited sand and then put down pavers. They wrapped the weekend with 50 service hours under 93-degree heat.
The renovation was the pinnacle of the Fijis’ service projects throughout the just-completed spring semester. Bob Glenn, a contractor and owner of CAJ builders, provided construction oversight.
The secured space is between the Social Services Building and the Worship Building and coffee shop on the Salvation Army campus at 714 S. Myrtle Ave.
Tempe Mayor Corey Woods, who has a long relationship with the Tempe Salvation Army, stopped by to see the impact of the chapter’s service firsthand and express his gratitude for time giving back to the community.
“I had a wonderful time meeting the members of the ‘Fiji’ fraternity,” Woods said. “It was great to see students partnering with the Salvation Army to make physical improvements to the facility, put together food CARE packages, and assist our unsheltered population. So many people have faced unprecedented challenges during the COVID -19 pandemic, and it’s wonderful to see our ASU students stepping up to help.”
Every hour of community service is tracked by the fraternity. Since December, 393 hours have been logged. During the past five months, Fijis have been provided to a diverse array of 20 community organizations and projects.
Fraternity president Taylor Dintzner, a junior majoring in finance, says service is an expectation that comes with belonging to Phi Gamma Delta, which was established at ASU in 1965 and has more than 850 alums.
“We all strive to get in as many hours of service as we can, and organizations that positively impact the communities surrounding us are prioritized,” Dintzner said.
Bob Kawa, chairman of the Tempe Salvation Advisory Board, is among those alums. He was a Fiji from 1969 to 1972 and fondly looks back on Greek life a half-century ago.
“I needed volunteers and these guys came through,” Kawa said. “A lot of people in the community weren’t volunteering because of COVID.”
Dintzner likewise said the fraternity, adhering to the guidelines and recommendations of the university, was in a holding pattern awaiting more socially safe conditions, although the Fijis were eager to get back to volunteering in December. The opportunity arose when Kawa needed bell ringers for the Salvation Army Red Kettles at Tempe stores. The fraternity provided a team for three weekends.
From there, Majors Mario and Claudia Ruiz of Tempe Salvation Army Corps stepped in and were diligent in coordinating volunteer work for the Fijis. There were 24 filled assignments to deliver food to Guadalupe, six roles filled delivering coffee, helping with the Salvation Army Angel Tree, plus 72 slots filled for bell ringers. They tallied 137.5 hours with the Salvation Army alone.
Throughout that period, Fijis sustained partnerships with other nonprofit organizations. Chapter members combined their efforts to successfully complete these acts of service:
- Donated blood with Vitalant.
- Prepared meals at Feed My Starving Children center in Mesa.
- Sorted used medical supplies at Project C.U.R.E.
- Packed food at St. Mary’s Food Bank.
- Renovated a dog park with Arizona Shih Tzu and Small Breed Rescue.
- Executed a Read > Lead > Achieve one-day car wash to “inspire a lifelong love for reading.”
- Served on a panel for Turning Point, a nonprofit that heightens sex-trafficking awareness.
- Carried out “March for Sight,” benefiting the Foundation for Blind Children by raising $316.
- Ran a social-media campaign, “Fiji Suicide Awareness Week,” to support the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and raising more than $2,000 in one week.
In just two months, through a shared passion and dedication to philanthropy, the Fijis amassed 393 service hours, raising $3,734.37.
“In helping out, I have the opportunity to give back to the community and help any way I can,” said Braeden Belnap, a freshman majoring in economics.
Nicholas Nauser, a freshman majoring in sustainability, who has distributed clothing and coffee to the homeless, added, “Whenever I help out, it gives me satisfaction, and I know it will make a difference.