By Stephanie De Luna
On February 25, more than 2,000 UT students, faculty, staff and alumni united in the Dove Springs community in Southeast Austin to participate in The Project 2012—the university’s largest day of service. Among the volunteers were members of Omega Delta Phi Fraternity, Inc., who have participated every year since 1999 when The Project was launched as Project 1000. That year, with the goal of getting 1,000 students to participate, the rejuvenation of the Rosewood Housing Complex began the community day of service that has now expanded nationwide with participation of alumni chapters throughout the country.
Omega Delta Phi is one of seven Latino-based Greek organizations that make up the university’s Latino Pan-Hellenic Council.
“Our organization is passionate about the potential that we see in the neighborhoods we help,” Juan Pineda, a brother of Omega Delta Phi said. “When we show up there may be nothing there, but when we leave, you can definitely see what we put an entire day’s work into.”
Pineda is also an apprentice for The Project’s logistics committee. He was assigned the role in April 2011, and this past summer Pineda went out to Dove Springs community meetings and block parties to speak with local leaders in order to find out what the neighborhood needed the most assistance with.
“It’s evident that the residents want change,” Pineda said. “It’s just the matter of having the resources to be able to do it.”
The brothers of Omega Delta Phi have united every year to participate in The Project, and many of the organization’s members have taken on leadership positions in the event.
“More than 20 of our brothers are team leads this year,” Jose Lopez, a brother of Omega Delta Phi said. “Whether it’s painting fences, fixing benches or mulching, we’re always there to help wherever they need us.”
As The Project team leads, the volunteers oversee specific areas of the community service project while delegating tasks and transmitting information from the project headquarters to the groups that they are in charge of. Team leads are crucial to the success of the event, and they also work closely with members of the community.
“Children, adults and the elderly see that we want to come back to these communities and help make them a better place,” Anthony Fashe, a member of Omega Delta Phi said. Fashe said that the organization’s participation in The Project also motivates brothers to become mentors to neighborhood children. Some brothers have also grown up in low-income, primarily Latino communities similar to Dove Springs, so they can relate to the experiences that neighborhood youth are going through.
“It is important to show the younger generation that people care,” Fashe said. “Growing up in less fortunate areas surrounded by poverty, you often feel like nobody cares and that society has forgotten about you.”
Seeing that quality and impacting service is an ongoing process, Omega Delta Phi puts an emphasis on community service throughout the year. The organization hosts Young Knights, a weekly mentorship program for at-risk youth in East Austin middle schools. Its purpose is to provide middle school males with a positive environment that encourages growth and self-actualization.
“Some of these students have brothers or fathers who might not be an ideal role model,” Pineda said. “Just being able to talk to someone who they can look up to is very important.”
The organization also works closely with its philanthropy, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), as well as Boys & Girls Club and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Omega Delta Phi’s members totaled 1,080 community service hours for the fall 2011 semester.
Omega Delta Phi plans to continue its participation and leadership in The Project when the service event returns to the Dove Springs community in 2013.
“I want us to form a connection with the Dove Springs neighborhood,” Fashe said. “I would like for the brotherhood to go back to the neighborhood and see how we can continue to help them in the future.”