MURRAY — Once again, Tonia Casey was able to count on “her boys,” the brothers of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity at Murray Sate University, in the Murray-Calloway County Need Line receiving a badly-needed boost with its food collections.
Saturday was the day for the “Chops” to deliver what they had collected this year from a combination of what citizens had left on their front porches that morning, as well as from a local school and local bank. However, this year was a little different, as not only did the Chops benefit from those contributors, but they also had a new partner for the drive, another Murray State Greek organization.
“I wouldn’t say they just helped us. We split it down the middle,” said Chops President Seth Harness of how the Alpha Gamma Delta sorority provided an added burst of energy. “They did everything we did (including sorting the food at the Chops’ house) so they deserve as much credit as do this year.
“They actually approached us about it because their national headquarters also contributes to Feeding America and that’s the charity that our group, of course, contributes to, so that kind of made sense, being that we’re both contributing to the same charity.”
Saturday’s work for the Chops and Alpha Gams also came at the end of a very busy end of the week. In fact, it had just been on Friday night that both groups had been involved in the Alpha Gams’ annual event, Rock A’ Thon (which builds funds for their Feeding America contributions), at Lovett Auditorium. Both groups had performed on the stage of Lovett with musical presentations for an event that ended at midnight.
Then, for good measure, while most of the Chops were collecting the food items on the streets of Murray, nine of its members were participating in the annual Towing for Toys Truck Pull at the Bee Creek soccer complex.
“We were supposed to have 10 guys for that, but one of them got sick,” Harness said on Sunday afternoon. “I’m exhausted. I think we’re ready for the Christmas break, but (Casey) was telling us how this is a real busy time for them, so I feel like timing is everything.”
This year’s collection amounted to about 6,600 pounds of food, which Casey said would be put to particularly strong use this year.
“We’re going to have 800 Christmas boxes this year,” Casey said, noting that this is actually the norm for monthly pickups for the community’s needy families. “The need is there. Normally, for this month, people will come in and sign in (to tell how much food and other supplies they will need) and, usually, if we have one sign-in sheet full, we feel like we’ve been busy. Well, so far this month, we’ve been having most days where we fill out one-and-a-half sheets, sometimes two.”
Casey also said there is an added area of concern this year – displaced workers with Murray’s Briggs & Stratton plant.
“And we don’t really know how many people from Briggs will be needing a Christmas box this year, but I’d rather be ready than not,” she said. “We’ve already had two families come in and one who we were able to put on our senior food program, so I was happy to do that, but I wish the numbers would stop going up.”
The Chops/Alpha Gams’ drive was helped by the students at Murray Elementary School, as well as a community drive at Independence Bank on Saturday. Casey said she is also expecting help to arrive soon from drives led by the Murray State rodeo program, as well as Murray State’s Hutson School of Agriculture.
She said the fact that Murray State groups are taking the lead when it comes to helping people in need is refreshing.
“It means the world to me,” she said. “When college students take the time to do this and you can see that they enjoy doing it, oh, it makes the future look so bright. That we have kiddos in the world who care – and I know they’re not little kids, but older – but if they can care like this while they’re in school, that’s going to speak volumes.”
“We try to help her out when we can,” Harness said of Casey. “This is really important to us. We’ve done it every year since the 1990s and it’s a way to wake people up as far as kind of showing everybody that fraternity is more than just a social club or an intramurals sports team. It’s an activity that can really make a big impact on the community and its people in need.”