By Sydney Gorak
COVID-19 has altered the ways in which individuals can give back to the local community, whether it be virtually through a donation or helping out in person. For Phi Alpha Omega, the longest standing greek organization on Flagler College’s campus, figuring out how to compensate for people who want a virtual option for participating in events and those who would rather complete community service in person has been a rollercoaster since last March.
Community service is a core value of Phi Alpha Omega, which requires four hours of service per month in addition to honoring sisterhood principles of friendship, loyalty and honesty. In the past, the sorority has been able to hold events on campus inside buildings without regulations on attendance or social distancing guidelines. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, social gatherings and community events have altered, introducing a virtual option available for those who prefer to attend remotely.
“It’s been difficult but it’s just taken an extra step because you can’t deprive people without a virtual option if they don’t feel comfortable,” said Amber Palermo, President of the sorority.
Palermo has been involved in the sorority for four years during her time at Flagler College and was recently elected as President her Senior year. Her responsibilities as President include planning major events and overseeing every sister in the sorority.
“It’s been very interesting. I’m really excited to look back at the time I was president after I graduated and get into the real world. I’ve definitely learned so much, everything needs to have a virtual option. Sometimes that’s easy and it’s a zoom link and sometimes it’s not,” Palermo said.
The sorority has continued to engage in the community while operating as safely as possible. They have been able to hold annual events like monthly beach clean ups and Reading for the Record, which is a national campaign to bring young kids and communities together by reading the same book on the same day, and working closely with local organizations.
Activities including helping out those experiencing homelessness and senior living shelters have been difficult due to COVID-19, given how readily transmittable the disease is.
The sorority held their annual Bachelor Bid night on Thursday, February 11th. The event is normally held in the Flagler College Dining Hall, but took place outside in the Markland Lawn this year. The event was also offered both virtually through a Live Stream on Instagram.
“I really wanted to make this event happen because it’s always in the Dining Hall. Due to COVID-19, we can’t do it in the Dining Hall and we can’t have more than 50 people,” Palermo said.
The Bachelor Bid is Phi Alpha’s biggest fundraiser. Every year, the sorority chooses a different charity where the proceeds will go to. This year, all proceeds will be donated to Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer.
Even though bonding events have looked a bit different as well this year, requiring mask use and following social distancing guidelines, the sorority has steadily adapted to maintaining community service obligations since the pandemic.
“Phi Alpha Omega works with a lot of local organizations such as United Way, and hosts events regularly. Though it has looked a bit differently this year, there are still a lot of safe community service opportunities that we help out with,” said Kate Happe, member of Phi Alpha Omega.
The group of 50 girls found ways to safely get involved in the community both virtually and physically. For those who don’t feel comfortable participating in events in person, there is always an option to join remotely.