For many college fraternities, a Friday tradition means hosting a giant party and getting an early start on the weekend celebrations. For the men of Sigma Alpha Epsilon at McDaniel College, Friday is their day to give back to the community.
Most Fridays, members of the fraternity head out to Main Street, Westminster, and begin their weekly cleanup, doing whatever odd jobs they can to beautify the business fronts and public spaces along the street.
According to fraternity member Wade Bishop, the fraternity has only been active at McDaniel for about three years and it was looking for a way to put itself out there and provide some community service. He said the fraternity members soon decided that Main Street was the perfect place to go to do the most good.
The group does a number of different tasks for the businesses along Main Street from scrubbing their siding to washing windows. In addition, they’ve scraped rust, repainted and cleaned leaves from the metal grates surrounding each of the trees growing up through Main Street’s sidewalk.
“The biggest thing has been going to different businesses and asking for permission,” Bishop said. “You can’t just go up and start doing it, even if we’d like to.”
Bishop said this kind of service hearkens back to the original concept of fraternities in a way that the current concept of Greek life sometimes omits.
“Fraternities were originally formed because of scholastic achievement and philanthropy opportunities,” Bishop said. “Somewhere along the way, some chapters across the nation have forgotten about that, so people only hear about the bad stuff.”
In addition to their weekly cleanup, the 16 members of the fraternity have also expanded their volunteering beyond Main Street, helping Carroll County Food Sunday prepare for its annual Thanksgiving food giveaway.
According to Ed Leister, executive director with Food Sunday, the members of the fraternity helped them unload and stack the 50-pound boxes containing turkeys and all the other components of their annual free Thanksgiving dinner giveaways.
“This was heavy bull work and we needed the extra hands,” Leister said. “These guys carried those 50-pound boxes like they were nothing. They were having fun throwing them around. For them, it was a fun activity, but for us it was a wonderful saving grace.”
Leister said he was incredibly impressed with the fraternity members’ work ethic and after finishing stacking boxes, began talking with them about their lives and future plans. That’s when he discovered their weekly cleanup efforts.
“Fraternities get a bad rap,” Leister said. “I think about fraternities, and I think about something like ‘Animal House,’ but these are really great kids doing something here to benefit this community.”
According to Bishop, the most difficult task the fraternity has undertaken was attempting to clean the rust off of the sidewalk grates. He said some members doubted the need of going into such small detail, but when they were done, the difference was readily apparent. He said it’s felt wonderful as the group has started to get noticed around the community.
“There was a business meeting and our fraternity apparently came up. They wanted to give us a shout-out for being out here doing the little things,” Bishop said. “It’s definitely those small things that make other people’s opinions on Greek life a little better, whether it’s us, or McDaniel as a whole.”