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Philanthropy/Community Service

It Could Have Been Any of Us

By | Alumni News, National News, Philanthropy/Community Service | No Comments

Originally published in the fall 2018 edition of The Chi Phi Chakett, Brother Felt’s story was recently recognized by the Fraternity Communications Association (FCA) with the 2nd Place Award for News Feature. FCA member include 71 social and honorary Greek organizations and governing bodies, including the North American Interfraternity Conference (NIC).

Photos courtesy of the US Department of the Interior

Looking out across the landscape filled with lush grass, wildflowers, and trees, one would never suspect the tragedy that occurred there just seventeen years ago. The only visible reminder of that day sits at the edge of a grove of hemlocks, the trees themselves now recovered from the damage they sustained. Now that the scars on the land have healed, there is only a boulder left to mark the impact site of United Airlines Flight 93 – the Sacred Ground. Though the physical reminders of the crash are gone, the wounds of loss are still fresh in the hearts of the friends and families of the heroes of Flight 93. For seventeen years, Gordie Felt, Alpha-Chi 1985, has sought to help heal those wounds through the establishment of the Flight 93 National Memorial. He knows well the feelings of loss; his brother Ed was one of the forty crewmembers and passengers who lost their lives when Flight 93 crashed.

It Could Have Been Any of Us

“Ed and the 39 other passengers and crewmembers that were on Flight 93 were all in many ways very unique individuals from all over the world. But also, in many ways, they were just like the rest of us; they were parents, they were brothers, they were spouses. I think that part of the story of September 11, particularly Flight 93, is that it could have been any of us on that flight,” Brother Felt reflected.

It was the normalcy of the flight and of the people on it – college students, retirees, teachers, and Ed, who worked as a system engineer for a software company – which makes the heroic fight that the passengers made in their final moments all the more remarkable.

Among the many calls and recordings from Flight 93 on that day – including the Cockpit Voice Recorder which captured the final words of the passengers who breached the cockpit and attempted to retake the plane – is the final cell phone call from Flight 93, and the only one to reach a 911 operator, made by Ed. His last-minute call to ground personnel allowed the operator to contact emergency services in the next county over and inform them that a large, hijacked commercial flight had been taken down – a fact that had not yet even reached the military. Had anyone survived the crash, Ed’s final call to alert first responders to the scene would have been lifesaving.

Memory

Within hours of first responders arriving from all over Somerset County, local citizens were the first to establish a memorial for the forty heroes. And they have been there with the Families of Flight 93 ever since.

“It’s been unbelievable,” according to Brother Felt. “That whole community has really become an extension of our greater Families of Flight 93. They have opened their arms to us as family members and accepted this Memorial with a certain degree of pride; they were the first ones who were there.”

The Families of Flight 93 has worked hand-in-hand with the local community, National Park Service, the National Park Foundation, and the Friends of Flight 93 (a similar organization to their own) to create the Flight 93 National Memorial. This September, seventeen years since the day that changed the United States, the final piece of the Memorial was put in place.

Uncertainty

Though today the Flight 93 National Memorial is now complete, just a few short years ago it was nearly a vision unfulfilled. As the tenth anniversary of 9/11 approached, the government and civic organizations had hit a brick wall while fundraising for the Memorial. Unlike the other two sites that met with tragedy that day, Shanksville had neither the same federal funding as the Pentagon nor were corporations moving to back the Memorial like those which had lost employees at the World Trade Center. Simply put: They were out of money.

“We really were starting with nothing,” Brother Felt said while recalling the fundraising efforts they undertook. Though a small portion of the site was donated, the task of raising more than $40 million for portions of the Memorial itself fell on the Families of Flight 93, the National Park Foundation, and other organizations.

Creation

The Memorial is now an established site within a vast tract of parkland, but the area surrounding it is, in many ways, still as rural and difficult to access as it was in 2001. Approaching the site through the many winding roads of western Pennsylvania, visitors are welcomed by signs along the way directing them to the various historic covered bridges, the occasional tavern, and stone homes dating back to past centuries. Entering the gates of the Memorial requires that visitors still drive for several minutes before reaching the museum and visitors center, and the Sacred Ground itself still further.

The Tower of Voices was designed as imposing; the 93-foot tall structure is the first piece of the Memorial that visitors see when entering the site. Its stark, industrial appearance contrasts with the flowery, green environment that now surrounds it. Its height is no coincidence; architect Paul Murdoch built numbers into how the Tower memorializes the forty heroes of Flight 93. Forty chimes adorn the Tower, each measuring between five and ten feet long and weighing up to 150 pounds. Each chime creates its own unique sound as the wind passes through – each one with its own voice.

Dedication

As the final piece of the Flight 93 National Memorial, the Tower of Voices provided a sort of closure, not only for the project itself, but for families, friends, and the community. Despite the chilly weather and steady rainfall during the dedication on September 9, a devoted showing of onlookers was present for the ceremony.

Brother Felt sensed the effect that this final ceremony had while watching with other spectators; families and friends of those on Flight 93, local residents, first responders, and complete strangers who came to show their support.

Speaking on behalf of the Families of Flight 93 that day was Calvin Wilson, brother-in-law of First Officer LeRoy Homer Jr. In the midst of describing the partnerships and friendships formed, the land purchased, and the money raised, Mr. Wilson reflected, “and then there’s the families. The Families of Flight 93. That wasn’t just a title for us; we are truly a family. We bickered, we hugged, we yelled, we screamed, but we had one goal in mind; and that was to make sure that our loved ones were remembered not only by name, but for their actions.”

“There is one individual,” he continued as he fought back emotion, “who has been like the father figure, the referee, our representative, across the nation, in the families, and in the executive group. He has represented us strong for fifteen years. This man has led us not from the front, not from the back, but at our sides. We can’t tell him enough how much we appreciate it and how much we love him, but we tried.” Mr. Wilson invited Brother Felt to the stage, where he was presented with a plaque as a thank you from the families for his efforts as President of the Families of Flight 93 for fifteen years.

Brother Felt and others were then led to the base of the Tower. There, family members and dignitaries officially dedicated the final piece of the Memorial and opened the chimes. As an ever-silent audience looked on, the winds sweeping through the field hit the Tower, which began its song for the first time.

Future

With the Flight 93 National Memorial complete, Brother Felt’s work would seem finished; but this is far from true. As life moves forward and the Families of Flight 93 continues to work toward preserving the memories of the forty heroes, he intends to continue working at their sides to support the Memorial and the community which has formed around it. The memory of the selfless actions of Ed and the other thirty-nine heroes of Flight 93 will continue to inspire awe, humility, and reverence for generations to come.

“The thing I want you to take away today, is that I want you to understand that we need to continue with the spirit of the forty heroes. We can’t lay down, we must come together as a diversified, unbiased group, understand what the problem is, come up with the solution, and then act upon it.”

– Calvin Wilson

Left: Brother Felt accepts a plaque as a gift from the Families of Flight 93, represented by Calvin Wilson. At left is Tom Ridge, the former Governor of Pennsylvania and first Secretary of Homeland Security. Photo courtesy of the Tribune-Review.

Article by Dan Coutcher, Alpha-Chi 2016, and Liz Carter




  • Chapter Spotlight: Delta Xi at West Virginia Wesleyan College

    By | Chapter News, Philanthropy/Community Service | No Comments

    At West Virginia Wesleyan College on a crisp fall day in October, more than 21 collegiate Brothers and many dedicated Alumni of the Delta Xi Colony of Chi Phi gathered to receive our Charter. Delta Xi is now officially recognized as an active Chapter by the Chi Phi Fraternity. During this ceremony our Chapter was also significantly recognized with the presentation of the President’s Cup (right). This award distinguishes our Chapter from others on campus as exemplar in academics, service, intramurals, and social activity. It is a high honor to receive this award from West Virginia Wesleyan Greek Life and the College.

    The fall semester proved to be a busy season for our philanthropic activity with the Brothers’ participation in a variety of service around our campus. West Virginia Wesleyan College stresses giving back to the campus and community and Delta Xi is an active contributor. We started on the first day of the semester! We lined up curbside to help the freshman arriving on campus unload their cars as they moved into their new dorms.

    On Halloween, we participated by “trick or treating” for canned goods in the town of Buckhannon (below, right). These donations were used to boost one of the town’s local food pantries. Later in the fall on Community Unity Day we joined forces with Alpha Sigma Phi to do some clean-up work in local cemeteries and assisted some of the elderly population with fall landscaping (below, left). Working together to benefit others in the community always has a positive effect on us all.

    After a setting the academic all time high GPA record last year in the Greek system here at West Virginia Wesleyan, we are striving to begin again to recapture this status. This fall the Brothers of Delta Xi topped the all fraternity average GPA for fall semester with a 3.54. The men of the scarlet and blue endeavor to continue this trend.

    Together we have experienced academic success, opportunities for leadership, service, and social activities that are enriched because of our Brotherhood. With these things in mind we plan to carry on the rich tradition of the Delta Xi Chapter of Chi Phi that was established by all the brothers of Chi Phi since 1824.

    Fraternally,
    Jack Goellner, Delta Xi 2019
    Zeta of the Delta Xi Chapter




  • Chi Phi Unites with the Max Gruver Foundation for the first #FlyHighMax 5k

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    At the annual Alphas and Thetas Academy this January, Chi Phi was honored to host Stephen and Rae Ann Gruver as keynote speakers. The Gruvers shared the story of their son Max, who passed away in 2017 after a hazing incident at Louisiana State University.

    Remembering Max and the impact that hazing has had on their family left such an impression on our members that the Fraternity and Educational Trust came together to serve as Lead Sponsors of the first Stop the Hazing #FlyHighMax 5k on February 2.

    National Staff, Friends of Chi Phi, and members of the Rho Delta Chapter at Oglethorpe University came together with more than 600 other runners to support the Max Gruver Foundation’s mission to ensure that hazing is eliminated on college campuses.

    The event was a great success for all parties, especially for the Foundation. John Fisher, Delta Pi 2013, even took home a medal for coming in 3rd for his age group. Perhaps one of the most meaningful moments of the 5k was when Rho Delta Brothers ran their final lap twice in order to stick with and support other Brothers still in the race. A real moment that shows true fraternity is about Brotherhood and community.

    Chi Phi’s partnership with the Max Gruver Foundation and the Gruver Family continues with Stephen and Rae Ann scheduled to speak at the Psi Delta Colony at UNC Charlotte on March 24. If you are interested in bringing the Gruvers to speak with your Chapter or campus, contact Assistant Executive Director Danny Zayas to learn more about how to make it happen.

    The event in images

    (click to enlarge)

    Chi Phi’s runners for the event included undergraduate members of the Rho Delta Chapter Arman Niknafs, Tyrell Snagg, Steve Myers, Chandler Robinson, and Luis Pereira-Hernandez. Alumnus John Fisher of the Delta Pi Chapter and his wife Danielle also ran the 5k.




  • Brothers from CMU, UTK Come Together During Thanksgiving Service Trip

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    With more than 2,600 undergraduate members on our rolls, it is not unusual for Brothers from different Chapters to cross paths. But who would have thought that two Brothers would come together during a service trip more than 2,000 miles away?

    Aleks Silva, CMU 2018, and Addison Mossett, Phi Delta 2020, both took part in a summer internship with Southwestern Advantage Sales Program, which involves 2,000 students from more than 350 universities each year. With their remarkable enthusiasm for their work, the Program offered both Aleks and Addison an incentive trip to Cancún over Thanksgiving Break, where they were also given the opportunity to help the local community and give back to those in need.

    The Tuesday before Thanksgiving, our Brothers and other volunteers on the trip went on a service project to assist Casa Hogar San Jose de la Inmaculada, a safehouse for girls aged 2-18 who have confronted extreme challenges in their lives. The Southwestern Advantage Sales Program worked with the four missionary nuns running the facility and raised enough money to build an addition to their current living quarters.

    The volunteer team spent most of their day helping maintain the property by weeding, painting, picking up rubbish, and even some landscaping work. They were also able to come together to purchase the facility a lawn mower and picnic table and even provided school supplies for the girls for the coming year.

    Thank you to Brothers Silva and Mossett for their continued dedication to community service and philanthropy, even when already being rewarded for a job well done!

    Do you know Brothers making an impact on their community, profession, or Chapter? Submit your stories by emailing Director of Member Engagement Dan Coutcher so the Fraternity can continue to recognize our members for their outstanding efforts.

    Above: Brother Aleks Silva (left) and Addison Mossett (right) during their service at Casa Hogar San Jose de la Inmaculada

    Below: Brothers Silva and Mossett with other volunteers and residents hard at work maintaining and improving the property




  • Pi Theta Chapter at UW-LaCrosse Serves up Thanksgiving Meals

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    The Pi Theta Chapter at University of Wisconsin-La Crosse spent part of their Thanksgiving giving back to their community.

    Brothers worked alongside other volunteers at the Salvation Army to prepare, cook, and serve meals to members of the La Crosse community. Pi Theta’s Thanksgiving mission has been an annual undertaking for the past several years, faithfully returning to the Salvation Army each Thanksgiving to commit themselves to community service before returning home to their families for the holiday.

    Thank you to our Pi Theta Brothers for continuing their outstanding work in their community and on campus.

    Do you know Brothers making an impact on their community, profession, or Chapter? Submit your stories by emailing Director of Member Engagement Dan Coutcher so the Fraternity can continue to recognize our members for their outstanding efforts.




  • Chapter Spotlight: Lambda Theta at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth

    By | Chapter News, Philanthropy/Community Service

    See this Chapter submission and many others like it in the fall 2018 edition of the Chakett!

    Hello Brothers,

    The Lambda Theta Chapter at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth has had a great year. Though many Brothers were lost for various reasons at the beginning of the year, our Chapter was not hesitant to fill in the positions those Brothers held. It was intimidating at first, but many of our Brothers stepped up and took on a position, truly growing as an individual as the year progressed.

    Something I’m particularly proud of this year is our success in participating in the MS Walk. The MS Walk is a national fundraiser whose goal is to end the life-changing condition known as Multiple Sclerosis.  Brother Kyle Gagne set up our participation in the event, and we managed to raise over one thousand dollars. It was truly inspiring to see the things we could accomplish working together as a Chapter.

    In addition, this year we held one of our most successful Alumni events. We call it the “Alumni Games,” where Alumni from the Chapter come and play a few sports against the current Chapter. Per usual, the Chapter lost to the much stronger and older Alumni; however, we had a great showing from both our Chapter and the Alumni alike. It was the perfect time for new Brothers to meet Alumni and bond with them over common interests.

    Overall, this year has allowed our Chapter to grow and mature as a part of Chi Phi. Brothers appear more motivated than ever to work towards bettering both the Chapter as well as themselves. Our Brothers show a lot of ambition and truly want to dive into the responsibilities of being a Chi Phi. I am excited and honored to witness these changes, and cannot wait to see what the future years of this Chapter hold in store.

    Fraternally,
    Dylan Tocci
    Zeta of the Lambda Theta Chapter




  • Chapter Spotlight: Theta Delta at University of Florida

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    Brothers Raise $45,000 for Dance Marathon

    Dance Marathon 2018 at University of Florida was an all-around success, with almost 6,000 students participating in some form. The Theta Delta Chapter was among those participants, many of the Brothers standing for the full 26.2 hours of the event.

    In addition to participating in the marathon itself, the Chapter raised $45,000 for the cause – they were surpassed in fundraising by only one other fraternity. All money donated during Dance Marathon benefits the patients of UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital.

    The Chapter is already gearing up for Dance Marathon 2019, where Brothers Nick Scianna and Gabriel Rojas will serve as Overall Directors.

    Theta Delta Brothers pose together during the Dance Marathon. Photo credits to DM at UF




  • Chapter Spotlight: Xi Delta at Florida Institute of Technology

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    Xi Delta Celebrates Philanthropy

    “The Xi Delta Chapter of the Chi Phi Fraternity had a tremendous year! Although the Greek Life in Florida is under the microscope, we had a great recruitment season and took in 16 New Members. Xi Delta is also hosting our 50th Anniversary this spring, and we look forward to the gathering of Alumni and undergraduates.

    The Chapter has continued our tradition of effective philanthropy events, including the 4th Annual Kicking for Kids Soccer Tournament (pictured above), which raised over $1,100 for the local Boys and Girls Club. Our efforts this year included our “America’s Next Top Doge” competition, an event benefiting Brevard County’s SPCA.

    We were also honored to host the Southeastern Regional Leadership Alliance for Chapters in the region in mid-February. Finally, the Xi Delta Alumni Association gained 14 members during the Alumni Installation Ceremony, demonstrating a lifelong commitment to Xi Delta and Chi Phi!”

    -Mitchel Spalding, Xi Delta 2020, Chapter Zeta

    Above: Xi Delta Brothers and Mr. Pickles (right center, sitting like a good boy) with the winners of their Kicking for Kids Tournament.

    Below: Two of the lovely participants in Xi Delta’s Next Tog Doge Contest.




  • Brothers use Spring Break to Make a Difference

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    Spring Break took on a new meaning this year

    Being a Fraternity Man means more than just partaking in the Bonds of Brotherhood; it means putting others before self, acting out of goodwill and an acute sense of propriety. We were thrilled this spring to see our Brothers acting as True Gentlemen and using their time away from campus during Spring Break to serve others.

    Two Brothers from Alpha-Chi (Ohio Wesleyan) traveled with a group of students to Houston, where residents are still confronting the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. The group worked with SBP, a recovery organization founded by an unaffiliated Ohio Wesleyan Alumnus to help recovery in the St. Bernard Parish of Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. Since 2006, the organization has expanded well beyond Louisiana to aid recovery efforts from natural disasters throughout the country.

    Dr. Chad Johns, Alpha-Chi 2002, Chapter Advisor and University Chaplain, helped prepare his group of OWU students throughout the semester through team building exercises and other bonding methods to build them up for a week of hard work. Among the students who joined him was the Chapter’s Theta, Evan Hudgens, Alpha-Chi 2019.

    Across an ocean, another Brother used his Spring Break to work with a community in the Ekumfi District, Ghana. Evan Schumacher, CMU Colony 2020, along with 39 other Central Michigan students, provided medical care to residents through a local clinic over several days.

    The team of students, along with staff and doctors, diagnosed and treated approximately 734 patients in their time there. Along with treatment for illness, malnutrition, and a variety of other ailments, the group helped educate their patients about Ghana’s national health insurance, malaria, hygiene, and safe sex practices.

    For many, Spring Break is all about sunshine and relaxation, but we commend these Brothers who utilized their time off to do some good. Building Better Men comes in all forms, and we look forward to many more Chi Phi Brothers doing just that!

    Did you or a Brother you know spend Spring Break making a difference? Tell us your story by emailing us at chiphi@chiphi.org.




  • Funds Raised by Pi Theta Presented to Local Organizations

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    This week the Sara Rose Hougom Foundation presented checks in excess of $11,000 to various groups in the La Crosse area, including the local police department and Big Brothers Big Sisters. A portion of those funds was raised by the Pi Theta Chapter at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse during their 5th annual Sara Softball Tournament.

    The Foundation promotes violence awareness and prevention and provides positive opportunities by uniting and supporting area youth with community members, businesses, and local authorities to facilitate a brighter, safer future in honor of the founder’s daughter, Sara, who passed away in 2012.

    Sherry Hougom, Sara’s mother, presented the donations during a local little league baseball game and also announced a new initiative of the Foundation; “Share the Love, Sara Style.” Sherry and her volunteers have collected candy, stuffed animals, and school supplies to create care packages for children in need. The care packages will be distributed by local police officers.

    For more information and updates from the Foundation, visit their Facebook page.