While most were trying to stay warm, the brothers of Alpha Tau Omega fraternity camped out in the freezing cold for a good cause. The brothers spent 30 hours beginning last Wednesday outside the Bell Tower and raised $1450.11 for the Philadelphia Committee to End Homelessness, a nonprofit organization focused on intervention and prevention of homelessness in the city for the past 25 years.
With the rising rate of homelessness in Philadelphia, the issue was an obvious choice to fundraise for, said ATO Vice President and Fundraising Chair James Hesky.
“It’s hard to not see it as a problem around this neighborhood and around the city as a whole,” said Hesky, a junior
public relations major. Although the fraternity has organized fund-raisers for the Alzheimer’s Association and the Prostate Cancer Foundation in the past, Hesky said the brothers thought it would be good to address a problem that is common in the city.
“If you’re out in the cold for 30 hours people take your cause seriously,” Hesky said.Following ATO’s interview with Fox 29 News early Wednesday morning, several people were prompted to stop by and drop off food and bags of clothing. In spite of icy temperatures, the group layered up and stayed in good spirits.
“It’s cold but it’s for a good cause,” said Kevin Todd, an ATO brother and sophomore biochemistry major. “If they can do it for their whole lives, we can do it for a night.”
Freshman journalism major Charlie Lange said he was able to get through the cold when he saw that people cared and wanted to get involved. Although Anthony Romeo, a sophomore biology major, only got two hours of sleep, he said he would like to contribute to the fund-raiser again next year.
The fund-raiser was not only an opportunity to raise money and awareness about homelessness in the city but also a way to improve the reputations of fraternities.
“This puts out a good word for us. A lot of frats have bad reputations,” Elliot Kerechek, a brother and sophomore
biology major said.
“We’re trying to show that we can do good and be part of a good social change,” Hesky said. With the help of the direct contributions like the fraternity’s fund-raiser, PCEH can continue to find permanent housing for those who become homeless and live in shelters.
The organization also runs a day center on 802 N. Broad St., where the homeless can take hot showers, get a change of clothing, make phone calls and hear inspiring advice from Roosevelt Darby Jr. Darby, PCEH’s deputy director, said he understands the plight of the homeless because he was once in their place.
Darby fell on hard times after becoming addicted to crack in the 1980s and ended up in a homeless shelter. He was able to pull himself up and is now helping others help themselves.
“We here at PCEH have been looking for solutions, solutions that go beyond just housing people in shelters,” Darby said, adding that the real solution is getting people out of shelters and into permanent housing.
Darby also said that children who live in shelters tend to be “sicker, slower and sadder” and that finding a permanent
home would “prevent the children from having to experience these hardships.” “It’s a long time solution, not a band aid,” Hesky said of the organization.
Nearing 4 a.m. when the freeze started to set in, the brothers encountered a homeless man and gave him a jacket and sweatshirt collected earlier in the day to get him through the night.
LeAnne Matlach can be reached at email@example.com.