Greek life packages Christmas spirit for children

Greek life packages Christmas spirit for children

By Austin Miller

Many students return home to their families and gather around a Christmas tree to open presents. However, not every child in the world can have the same jolly experience.

SIU fraternities and sororities came together Wednesday to help brighten Christmas for 136 less fortunate children around the world.

AJ Soriano, philanthropy chair for Alpha Tau Omega, organized a present packing party to put together boxes for Operation Christmas Child.

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Soriano, a senior from Downer’s Grove studying business management, said he found Operation Christmas Child, a Christian aid organization that sends shoe boxes filled with toothbrushes, non-liquid hygiene products and toys to children in Africa and Europe, who may not be able to afford them.

Since 1993, more than 113 million boxes have been delivered to more than 150 countries, according to its website.

“For a number of years, our fraternity has searched for a way to create some communal philanthropy and create some bonds with the community for a common good,” Soriano said. “We wanted a way to reach out to students and non-Greeks, and Greeks alike.”

As Christmas tunes such as “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer” and “Jingle Bell Rock” filled room 150 of the Student Services Building, members from Alpha Gamma Delta, Sigma Lambda Beta, Pi Sigma Epsilon, Sigma Pi and ATO gathered to pack boxes.

Angel Escobar, a senior from Chicago studying mechanical engineering, said he enjoyed being able to help out children that are less fortunate than he is.

“It’s good for us to give them some things they don’t have, as well as the spirit of Christmas,” said Escobar, a member of SLB.

Soriano said family members of the greek organizations donated more than $700 to purchase the gifts for the packages. Slinkies, crayons, coloring books and toy cars were among the selection of toys for packing.

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He said toys are sent in the original packaging because many children who receive a box have never experienced the thrill of opening up a new gift.

The SIU Dental Hygiene program donated 120 toothbrushes to be gifted.

Participants included a small note, with the box telling the child who receives it, how much they enjoyed making the gift, and some personal information, as well a photo of themselves.

Soriano said he hopes the picture and note created a more personal connection between giver and receiver, more than just sending a box and doing something nice, but a trace of humanity.

An additional benefit of the event was the collaboration of multiple Greek organizations

Mark Homann, a sophomore from St. Charles studying business marketing and management and a member of ATO, said he enjoyed seeing the cooperation between the different clubs.

“It’s cool to see that we all care about the bigger picture,” Homann said.

Labels are placed on each box, so participants can track where their gift ends up.

The 136 packages were taken to First Baptist Church in Marion, and will be shipped from there.

Soriano said one of his goals for the event was to make it sustainable and become an annual tradition.

“If helping out a child who’s underprivileged with a gift we take for granted every year doesn’t get you up in the morning, I don’t know what will,” he said.

Austin Miller can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @AMiller_DE

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