Students raise awareness for local organization through class project

Students team up with sororities and organize a holiday food drive for the Rockbridge Area Relief Association

Sutton Travis

What began as a class assignment for a group of journalism students became a passionate cause celebrating food, community and the spirit of the holiday season.

As a volunteering component of their Principles of Public Relations class, this student group worked to promote the Rockbridge Area Relief Association throughout the entire term, focusing particularly on the nonprofit’s website and social media.

For its concluding project, the group organized a Greeks Give Thanks Food Drive from Nov. 28 to Dec. 2. Washington and Lee’s six sororities sponsored the event, which benefited the RARA Food Pantry.

Group members Lily Arnold, ‘18, and Erin Duffy, ‘18, originally pitched the food drive idea to the Panhellenic Council. The two focused on how the drive would benefit RARA while strengthening inter-sorority relations.

“I know people get kind of discouraged thinking, ‘Oh, if I go to this sorority, I’m never going to see my friend again,’” Arnold said. “So having one project where all the sororities come together and collaborate on something, I think that’s a really great idea.”

Working with group members Matt Barton, ‘17, Taylor Gulotta, ‘17 and Claire Hoffert, ‘18, Arnold and Duffy arranged for donation boxes to be placed in each of the sorority houses. A donation box that all of campus could contribute to was placed in Elrod Commons, with each of the six sororities covering tabling shifts during the week.

Items suggested for donation included a number of nonperishable food products. According to RARA’s website, the organization’s food pantry served 17,626 individuals in 2013.

While the donations were important, especially during the holiday season, the student group’s main goal was to raise awareness among the student body about RARA and its mission.

“RARA is truly a great organization and our work with them has become much more than simply a class assignment,” Duffy said. “RARA wanted to draw from a younger demographic in addition to their current volunteer base, and W&L students are a perfect source. We wanted to help them tap into that.”

Arnold said prior to the food drive, many students did not know about RARA. Of those who did, some did not realize that in addition to the food pantry, RARA also provides monetary aid for necessities like fuel, utilities and rent.

“People are talking about RARA now,” Arnold said. “And I think

that’s one of the biggest things: people know what it is, people are aware of it as an organization in the community.”

As Head of Panhellenic Philanthropy, Caroline Todd, ‘17, said she appreciated the group’s work on both the inter-sorority and larger community level.

“I’m thankful for all the hard work they’ve put into this event,” Todd said. “It is an important way to engage with the greater Lexington community at a time of year when we shouldn’t be taking what we have for granted.”

Kappa Kappa Gamma President Pinkney Beal, ‘17, also supported the decision to sponsor the food drive through the sororities.

“I think it’s smart to involve the entire Panhellenic community,” Beal said. “We make up such a large part of the student body and have the organizational capability to support things like this. I also think this would be a great holiday tradition to start on campus and hope that it continues for many years.”

Arnold said that even though their project with RARA will conclude with the end of the term, she hopes the drive will continue to exist and improve in the future.

“[RARA] has great people there, and they do a lot for the community,” Arnold said. “They’re just kind of a helping hand. I know there are a ton of people who benefit from their services. I hope they go on to do great things after our project is done.”

Those interested in learning more about RARA, including the organization’s volunteer hours, can visit