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Student-run group puts community service first


By Alexandria Blute
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, October 29, 2004
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Students looking to make a difference in their community and have some fun in the process might want to consider joining UA's only fraternity dedicated primarily to community service.

Members of the coed fraternity Alpha Phi Omega perform a wide variety of community service projects with a number of different organizations including Habitat for Humanity, the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation, and World Care, said Amanda Meeker, APO membership vice president Garrett Bennett, a retailing and consumer sciences junior and APO service chairman, said in the past, APO members have also volunteered to play bingo with the elderly, pick fruit for sick patients, and babysit children at women's shelters while their mothers take classes to "get back on their feet."

According to group members, APO is the largest student-run organization on campus, with a membership of nearly 200 students.

Meeker, an industrial engineering senior, said the group's three main goals are to promote service, leadership and friendship amongst its members, and he noted that anyone who wants to join need only fill out a survey.

While APO's priority is on community outreach and volunteerism, group members also organize social functions like barbecues and camping trips, she said.

"It's such a great opportunity, as far as meeting people," Bennett said, adding that even with such a large member base, "it's very well run and organized."

Those who join are required to do 25 hours of community service during their first semester and 18 hours each following semester, Bennett said. He noted that group members can take part in as many activities as they would like and said last semester, one student did more than 100 hours of community service.

APO president David Campos, a molecular and cellular biology senior who is in his third semester in APO, said that when he first came to UA he couldn't find an organization that appealed to him.

"But when I joined APO, it appealed," Campos said. "The people were very laid back, very accepting of all different types."

Campos said while the group is already involved with many organizations, they often survey members asking for input on possible future projects.

"We do a lot of different things," he said, "we're always open to ideas."

Pam Boyer-Pfersdorf, Director of Operations for World Care, an organization that provides a variety of aid to a network of different organizations, said APO members volunteer at her organization every Saturday.

"They're very, very active," Boyer-Pfersdorf said, adding that while many different people volunteer at World Care, UA students are among her favorite.

"I love college students," she said.

UA's campus chapter of APO is Theta Iota, a branch of the larger national APO organization.

APO was originally brought to the UA in 1949, but, according to Theta Iota's Web site, members lost interest and the chapter became inactive in 1985.

The group was re-chartered in 1996 and has gained members consistently since, Bennett said. He also said while there were only about 30 members in 2000, the pledge class this year had 90 people.

Bennett said reaching out to members of the local community has been the most rewarding part of being an APO member.

"I'm in a lot of clubs on campus," Bennett said, "and APO's the most meaningful."



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