Tuesday, August 03, 1999

Fraternity helps to tidy senior center

Phi Delta Theta paints building

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MIDDLETOWN — More than 100 fraternity brothers from around the United States and Canada tapped into their youthful energy and enthusiasm Monday to spruce up the Middletown Area Senior Citizens Center.

        They climbed on ladders, perched on the corners of desks, balanced on chairs to hang ceiling tiles and paint inside, and scraped huges masses of vines from the exterior.

        Those volunteers were among the 675 Phi Delta Theta brothers that came together this week by plane, train and private vehicle for the week-long, 11th annual Phi Delta Theta Leadership College, sponsored by the international fraternity headquartered in Oxford.

        “A lot of times fraternities are represented as just a lot of heavy drinking and hazing,” said Jim Snaza, 19, of University of South Dakota, as he sat cross-legged on the floor of the gymnasium, painting. “Those that do good things don't get noticed.”

        The good this group accomplished Monday will long be enjoyed by the center's 1,100 members and others that use the center, said Alesia Childress, executive director.

        “We needed this done so badly,” Mrs. Childress said. “But this is something the seniors can't do, and there were no funds available for this work.”

        With supplies provided by Lowe's at reduced costs and the donated labor, the estimated $25,000 project was done for about $4,000, Mrs. Childress said. Middletown Police Explorers Post 184 did preliminary work three days, including removing damaged ceiling tiles on all three floors. The project was coordinated by Paul Presta, the center's facilities manager.

        “Isn't this remarkable,” Mrs. Childress said Monday, watching the fraternity brothers scurrying in every direction.

        The leadership training program includes seminars, speakers, small group discussions and hands-on activities, with a chance to enhance leadership skills and work on chapter and personal development.

        “The purpose of leadership college is to educate our undergraduates and alumni on issues that currently face them in today's college environment,” said Bob Biggs, executive vice president of the fraternity, which has 170 chapters.

        Community service projects always are included. On Monday the members worked at about 15 to 20 facilities in the Oxford, Hamilton and Middletown areas, said Marisa Wheeling, graduate intern and coordinator of the community service project.

        In Middletown, Borna Zlamalik, 20, from the Universi ty of Western Ontario, Canada, stood on a desk and stretched to install braces for sparkling new ceiling tiles.

        Nearby, Leif Lackey, 21, from the University of Texas in San Antonio, and Sheridan Green, 20, of the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, painted, while the three discussed some of their famous fraternity predecessors — President Benjamin Harrison, astronaut Neil Armstrong and baseball great Lou Gehrig.

        They also talked about the instant camaraderie.

        “We're complete strangers, but we have a common bond. It's as if you've known them all your life,” Mr. Green said.

        Outside as the afternoon sun beat down, a pile of discarded T-shirts was on the lawn. As Josh Thompson, 20, of Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach, Fla., used a shovel to rip down vines, sweat poured down his face and dripped on the ground.

        But there were no complaints heard — despite the tight quarters where some worked, the paint-spattered clothing and bodies, and the heat — not even from Noah Hummer, 20, of Northern Arizona University, who had to dodge a flying shovel that tumbled off the roof as he swung an ax to cut the heavy vine roots.

        Basil Fleming, 71, of Monroe, president of the center's membership, the auxiliary and the advisory board, looked on with delight.

        “I think this is about the greatest thing I've seen,” Mr. Fleming said. “It makes you so proud of our young people. This is my second home. We're really proud of this place, and now it will be even nicer.”


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