For Pi Beta Phi, literacy is a cause very near and dear to our hearts. After all, our philanthropy is dedicated to it! In 2014, Pi Phi wanted to step up our game and showcase our love of literacy in a big way. In partnership with First Book®, we chose four cities to be the locations for our inaugural Fraternity Day of Service Signature Events where we would donate 20,000 new books. Houston, Long Beach, Baltimore and Nashville Pi Phis didn’t know exactly what they were getting into when they said they would host these events, but they knew if they were going to impact thousands of people in their community their only answer was yes.
The Fraternity Day of Service Signature Event in Houston began on Thursday, February 27 at the Children’s Museum of Houston. Every Thursday, the Houston Alumnae Club sponsors a Bilingual Storytime event at the museum, so the week of Fraternity Day of Service we hosted a special Dr. Seuss®-themed storytime. Students who participated in story time choose two brand-new books to take home with them. One mother shared how she attributes her daughter’s love of reading to her attendance at almost all of the Pi Phi Thursday evening Bilingual Storytimes. Her young daughter now excels at reading in school. On Friday afternoon, more than 30 Pi Phi volunteers helped unpack and sort 20,000 brand-new books to prepare for Saturday morning’s distribution to nearly 300 First Book recipient groups in the Houston Area. In just 2.5 hours, Pi Beta Phi volunteers distributed 20,000 books to schools, organizations and after-school programs that serve children in need. The recipient groups were so thankful to receive new books for their classrooms and after-school programs they sent in many thank you cards, emails and photos of their students overjoyed to have new books.
In Long Beach, California, the Fraternity Day of Service Signature Event was an overwhelming success. The volunteers in Long Beach spent time on Friday, February 28, unpacking, sorting and organizing 20,000 books at the Long Beach Public Library in preparation for their distribution the next day. On Saturday, March 1, nearly 200 recipient groups came to the Long Beach Public Library to pick up their allotment of books. These groups included preschool staff, elementary school teachers and after-school program coordinators. Families and children in the community came as well. One organization, BARK (Beach Animals Reading to Kids), brought therapy dogs to the event. All day on Saturday, children happily read stories to the dogs and enjoyed this unique opportunity. More than 150 Pi Phi checked in, welcomed and helped recipient groups and community members “shop” for books, colored with children and participated in Champions are Readers® activities. Many children were very excited to pick out their own books. One Pi Phi reported that a mother was crying because she was so happy her children had the opportunity to choose their very own brand-new books. Pi Beta Phi donated 500 books to the library as a thank you gift for hosting the event.
The Carmelo Anthony Youth Development Center was overjoyed to host Pi Beta Phi’s Fraternity Day of Service Signature Event in Baltimore. Pi Phi collegians and alumnae in the Baltimore area united to help make this event a success. On Thursday, February 27, the truck of 20,000 books arrived at the center and the unpacking began. After a few hours, the books were organized by age group and sorted by title, ready to be picked up and taken home over the course of the next two days. The highlight of Baltimore’s three-day event was interacting with more than 100 students who attend the Carmelo Anthony Center’s after-school program each day. It was clear that the recipient groups and families who received books truly were in need. Throughout the event, Pi Phi collegians and alumnae helped students pick out books, color bookmarks, make “monster bookmarks” out of construction paper and “googly eyes” and color Cat in the Hat® hats and plates of green eggs and ham. The children also enjoyed listening to a Pi Phi dressed as Cat in the Hat read Dr. Seuss classics. The older children enjoyed a Jeopardy game including questions about grammar and reading. The students especially loved their Read > Lead > Achieve backpacks and proudly wore them for the whole afternoon. Many of the students also expressed how excited they were to pick out a book for their sibling, friend or cousin. For example, one student kept telling the Pi Phis about how he picked out a book for his little brother and he couldn’t wait to read with him when he got home.
In Nashville, the staff and families of the Green Hills YMCA could hardly believe what 20,000 books looks like as books filled the YMCA’s Frist Teen Center on Thursday, March 13. Pi Phi alumnae and Tennessee Beta collegians unpacked and sorted books which stacked more than five feet tall! On Friday, more than 80 First Book recipient groups from all over middle Tennessee picked up books by the box load as Pi Phi volunteers welcomed them to the distribution, helped direct the shopping efforts and load cars. Saturday morning, Pi Phi and the YMCA staff hosted a community day. Children filled backpacks full of books to take home, engaged in literacy craft projects and expended some energy in a literacy-inspired fitness class. At the conclusion of the event, Pi Phi’s new friends at the YMCA agreed to help spread the love and distribute any remaining books to other YMCAs in the Nashville area. How cool is that?!
Fraternity Day of Service was a huge success this year. Pi Beta Phi owes a great deal of gratitude to First Book, all of our event locations and especially our Pi Phi volunteers who planned, organized and executed these events. We look forward to hosting Fraternity Day of Service Signature Events again next year in different cities as a part of Read > Lead > Achieve which inspires a lifelong love of reading that can unlock true potential.
One child … one moment at a time … one life changed forever