Some colleges and universities are located in big cities and others in the middle of nowhere. More likely than not, these schools are placed in, otherwise, declining towns. The economic dependency these towns hold on the schools incoming students are what keep it alive. The students enjoy their four years and move away, never to think about the state of their college town ever again. For people like Ryan Edwards (Epsilon-Chi, ’18), it means more than just a college experience.
Edwards grew up in Starkville, Mississippi and knows the streets better than anyone. From the best pizza place around to the areas of town to avoid after dark, Edwards has been able show his Fraternity Brothers the ropes. He understands the kind of people and poverty that exist just down the street from his cozy apartment on campus. Mississippi is currently one of the most illiterate states in America, meaning that many people are not able to hold living wage jobs that can cover necessary expenses.
“If you go five minutes east, it is not the same type of Starkville that most students are used too. One time a year, we drive around to show them [new members] how blessed we are that we get an education, pay our dues and go to a nice school like this. This is not all of Starkville. Sometimes we get caught up in what we know instead of reaching out to the community” explains Edwards.
It is because of the poverty right outside his window that he encouraged his Brothers to make a larger impact this year. For the past 20 years, the chapter has been delivering cans to families in town who need the extra food to get through the Holidays. This year, members are bringing hot meals straight to the doors of people who, otherwise, would not have had a Thanksgiving meal. The catch? These individuals think they are receiving a bag of canned food. To their surprise, a hot meal and companionship walks up their front door.
Edwards explains, “We are supporting six families. There’s a place in Starkville called, What’s for Dinner, that does Thanksgiving packages: turkey, casserole, stuffing, green beans and a roll. We’re going to bring them cans, goodies and an early Christmas card as well.”
As the sole donors for their local Feeding America distribution center at Church of God and Christ, the Mississippi State University chapter are given families with the most need in their community. As members are preparing a hot plate, the Chaplain, Braden Garrison (Epsilon-Chi, ’18) will offer to pray over their meal before digging in. Brothers play with the children of the family while others help bedridden individuals finish a crossword puzzle. When it’s time to go, members leave a bag of canned foods as an extra treat to celebrate the Holiday season.
Service projects like this don’t just hit close to home for Edwards, they literally hit home. It is not enough to simply get his service hours in for the semester, it is about giving back to the community that built him up to become an honorable man.
“It’s truly humbling every time we go. Exploring other people’s walk of life is one of the things we can do in helping to be servants to everyone else. Service is in our Core Values and we take that to heart here at Lambda Chi Alpha at Mississippi State University” says Edwards.
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