Students walking on Liacouras Walk this week could be surprised with anything from a $5 bill to a free pizza – all in the name of philanthropy.
The 122 members of Alpha Epsilon Phi, or AEPhi, are about three weeks into their “26 Acts of Kindness” initiative in honor of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting. Members randomly do something nice for a stranger and give them a note reading something along the line of: “The sisters of Alpha Epsilon Phi, Phi Theta Chapter are committing 26 acts of kindness in honor of the 26 lives lost in the Sandy Hook tragedy. You are act number __ in honor of __. Enjoy and we hope you will pass it on.”
Devon Gorson, vice president of philanthropy for the sorority and a sophomore tourism and hospitality management majorm, said she got the idea during winter break, when she learned one of the sisters had she received a $30 tip at her work from a couple that also paid for another patron’s meal. After the couple left, she got a similar note in addition to the tip.
“I was thinking I really wanted to do that myself, but it seems kind of expensive,” Gorson said.
She introduced the idea to the sorority, and all seemed on board. The acts of kindness varied. Some decided to buy a person’s lunch or coffee behind them and some decided to leave money around campus. Two members, Amanda Bergey and Shayna Shorr, left $26 in an envelope for someone to find in the TECH Center.
“I wasn’t anticipating as many people wanting to do it,” Gorson said. In fact, some girls had to be paired up since the interest was so great, including Bergey and Shorr.
One of Gorson’s favorites was the act of leaving a few dollars taped to the vending machine, which was Annie Petela’s idea.
“I decided I really wanted to do something different, and not just pay for someone in front of me. I wanted to do something simple,” Petela, a sophomore speech pathology major, said.
Unfortunately, she did not get to stick around to see her recipient’s reaction.[blockquote who=”Annie Petela” what=”Sophomore Speech Pathology Major”]It was really rewarding but I couldn’t help but feel [sad] because I did it for a little girl [who died at Sandy Hook]. I was brightening a person’s day, but she’d still never experience all the things I’ve experienced so far[/blockquote]
Felicia Steele, a junior communications major, bought pizza for the person behind her in line at Maxi’s. Her recipient happened to be Xavier Perez, a fraternity brother and treasurer of Sigma Alpha Mu.
“I was very surprised and very happy. It made my day and brightened my mood for the rest of the day,” Perez, a sophomore film and media arts major, said. “It’s a really nice project, and I looked at all the [acts] so far on Instagram, and it puts Greek life in a really good light.”
“I think that people don’t really realize we do a lot to give back and this was a good opportunity to show what we do,” she said.
Though Gorson preferred for the girls not to give their acts to other sisters or fraternity brothers, this incident happened by coincidence, and said she was glad. It gave her hope that Perez would pass along a similar idea to Sigma Alpha Mu.
In order to publicize the acts in hopes of creating a reaction, AEPhi members decided to upload each of their Acts of Kindness onto Instagram about once a day.
For Hiya Ray, public relations chair and sophomore public relations major, uploading the pictures onto the social networking site has been the most gratifying part of the event for her, since she hasn’t participated first hand.
“I think, for me, because I do run the Instagram, seeing all the likes each of them get and people commenting is the most gratifying part because I see how many people enjoy what we’re doing or are proud of what we’re doing,” she said.
Ray said with each day, the amount of “likes” or “followers” they get increases. It shows that the rest of the student body is recognizing their kindness.
This was Gorson’s main focus. Though it’s important for the sorority to continue until they honor the 26th victim, she said she hopes to see other students keep it up like a ripple effect.
“We’re just really excited for it as a chapter. A lot of [alumni] have been saying how proud they are of what we’re doing and I hope it’ll just get [alumni] and parents and every chapter throughout the nation more involved in philanthropy and maybe give them ideas,” Gorson said.
To see their “26 Acts of Kindness,” follow the sorority on Instagram, @aephitemple.
Patricia Madej can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.