Instead of partying till dawn, the newest fraternity on the campus of Western Maryland College is spending its time helping others.
The fledgling fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega, is on its way to being officially recognized as a chapter. But, before the group could set in motion its bid for a national charter, it has had to gain attention on the Westminster campus and prove it was unlike any other club.
"We wanted to start an organization that had fellowship and service and that was coed," said co-founder David Stysley, a senior. The group, which started in January 1999, was given a trial period by the college to prove it wouldn't be the same as other fraternities and campus organizations, he said.
The growing group is known for its eclectic membership.
"There's not one member that's like another one, yet what brings them together is that they are all tireless with service," said adviser Lisa M. Breslin, an adjunct English professor at the college. "There was no question in my mind that I wanted to be a part of it."
Alpha Phi Omega, the largest fraternity worldwide, was formed in 1925 at Lafayette College and includes among its members President Clinton. Chapters are also active on the campuses of University of Maryland, the Johns Hopkins University, Georgetown University and American University.
The club is not considered a Greek fraternity, said Westminster group co-founder Josh Bronson, because it does not focus on social functions and because it is nonselective. Alpha Phi Omega is called a "service fraternity" or "affinity group" on campus, he said.
The efforts of Stysley and Bronson have helped form a 20-member association that is preparing for its first membership recruitment this fall. Bronson, a senior sociology major, hopes that the group's diversity and goals will attract other students.
"It's a unique opportunity for people to participate in service projects and fellowship," said organization President George Cramer. The group is free, nonselective and doesn't require a formal commitment, he said, which is attractive to students with time constraints.
Stysley hopes that recruitment will help the group's momentum as it pushes toward gaining a charter, something members hope will happen next spring.
"For so long, we were so little. Now, we're just a stone's throw away from chartering," said Stysley, a political science major. "It has brought people together that normally wouldn't come together. These people would have never had a chance to meet and find out that no matter what our backgrounds are, we all have good qualities."
While the group has been on campus a short time, it has had an effect on the college of 1,600 students and Westminster. "They're not out there popping beers and getting drunk to bond. There not saying what beer is around the next corner, they're saying what group can we help next," said Breslin.
The group's service activities have included directing hectic traffic at college Green Terror football games, driving international students to and from the airport, and participating in the Kmart Race Against Drugs in Westminster. Last year, the group also joined the West Side Community Task Force, formed by local residents "concerned that the neighborhood was taking a turn for the worse," said Breslin, who lives in Westminster.
A few times during the semester, the students patrolled a mile-long strip of Westminster, acting as a community watch force in an effort to keep the neighborhood safe at night. Bronson hopes to patrol more often this year.
Besides serving the campus and community, the club focuses on the principles of leadership and fellowship - ideals based on the founder's involvement in Boy Scouts, said Vice President Robert L. Weaver.
"We're friends with a purpose," said member Elizabeth R. Crockett, "and we want to be known as a service group."