Small but Mighty: 20-Man Chapter at John Carroll Helps Make Cleveland a Better Place, One Plate at a Time

Jacob Schupp signs all of his emails, “At your service,” which is very telling of his commitment to the Pi-Eta chapter at John Carroll University, the school, his community and beyond.

Schupp, a junior finance major, is his chapter’s High Beta and president of the Student Union. He volunteers what little time he has left to Campus Ministry, the Center for Service and Social Action, and The Labre Project. He has also interned at the Cleveland Clinic, which is ranked the second best hospital in the United States.

This 21 year old from Pennsylvania has a lot on his plate.

But he knows, firsthand, others don’t — literally. His brothers know this too, because they see it every week.

Downtown Cleveland, Ohio as seen from the street in front of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless.

On the streets of Cleveland, Ohio, an estimated 23,000 people are homeless. Most of them, food insecure. The 20 guys in Pi-Eta Zeta do what they can to help combat that. Every Friday, in collaboration with The Labre Project on campus, they cook food for more than 80 people, pile into two vans, and make the 20- to 40-minute commute to East and West Cleveland. There, they don’t just feed and clothe the homeless. They get to know them.

“Directly working with the homeless population, I have seen a wide variety of things,” Schupp said. “I think a common stereotype is that they’re not friendly or willing to work with people. But we have found that many of them are so excited to see us every week and just want to spend time talking with us and spending time with each other.”

Service and stewardship is one of Lambda Chi Alpha’s core values. The men in this chapter embody that.

“A lot of our members here are very passionate about service and social justice, specifically related to homelessness and food insecurity” Schupp said. “Labre makes it very easy to get involved.”

Alec Bryson is Pi-Eta Zeta’s High Alpha. “We take after the Jesuit mission here in improving our community, not just in little ways but also in fighting for equality for those who really don’t have a voice. We’ve kind of taken that Jesuit identity and applied it well to our chapter. I think we’ve benefitted from what the Jesuit identity and the Lambda Chi Alpha values can do when they’re combined together,” he says.

For them, this is exactly what it means to be a Lambda Chi. (Click the link to read a Q&A with some of the other guys in the chapter about what being a member of Lambda Chi means to them and why service is so important.)

“It’s our duty and responsibility to give back,” High Phi Brendan Sieber said. “It’s something we hold near and dear to our hearts, and it’s probably one of the most paramount parts to being in the fraternity.”

Community leaders notice their dedication. They wouldn’t be able to provide the level of support that they do without the help of these students.

“For us, as a group that’s so small, it would be impossible for us to do that without the help of Labre and other students who are volunteering their time,” said Chris Knestrick, director of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH).

NEOCH coordinates most outreach services related to homelessness in Cleveland and tracks what is happening in all of the encampments throughout the city. That is a big job for a three-person staff.

“Our shelters are running in overflow every night of the week, so homelessness and housing insecurity is pretty pervasive,” Knestrick said. “As we see the rise in housing prices in Cleveland — it kind of has this up-and-coming story about it — we have to recognize that the underbelly of our city is these larger social problems.”

Labre volunteers attend NEOCH’s monthly meetings to share with the organization what they’re hearing from the homeless population out in the community. After all, they are the ones who connect with them on a personal level. Together, NEOCH, Labre and John Carroll play an important role in making sure someone is out in the community helping these people every night of the week. A lot of times, it is our men who are on the frontline.

“What I hear from the program is these students … not only do they go out and give something to someone, they build relationships with them,” Knestrick said. “This kind of service work that happens in college, whether it’s through the Labre program or other ones, is really important because it gives students an opportunity to see the whole reality of our world. College is a time when we’re forming who we are as people and educating ourselves.”

Mary Ann Hanicak

A fairly new chapter, Pi-Eta Zeta just colonized three years ago. Assistant to the Vice President for Student Affairs and Fraternity and Sorority Adviser Mary Ann Hanicak has been with them since day one.

“The service aspect, from the beginning of the colony here at John Carroll, was always there, and I think that it has only grown,” Hanicak said. “It has always been a hallmark of this organization, and I think they really lead the way for the other Greek chapters to follow.

They might not be the largest group on campus,” she added. “But it’s amazing the impact that they have.”

The men in the chapter have grown significantly, Hanicak said. And she has no doubt they will continue to grow.

“This group just has my heart,” she said. “They have struggled, but I can’t even begin to tell you the transformation they have made.”

Lambda Chi Alpha is a great fit for John Carroll because their missions and values lend themselves to one another.

“It’s a perfect match,” Hanicak said. “This is at the heart of who we are as members of the Jesuit community. We strive to always be in companionship with the other.”

Members of the John Carroll chapter organized a Hoops for Hunger event back in October to raise money for those affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

The chapter at John Carroll continues to go above and beyond the traditional Pumpkin and Watermelon Smashes. Of course, they partner with Feeding America, Lambda Chi’s national philanthropy, too. But they’re literally feeding America. In fact, some of them are feeding the world through mission trips overseas.

They even organized a Hoops for Hunger fundraiser back in October for victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, which devastated South Texas and South Florida respectively, because they felt their community wasn’t doing enough to aid in relief efforts.

A chapter doesn’t have to be part of a Jesuit university, or any religiously affiliated college, to do this kind of service work. The members just have to get out in their communities and do it, Schupp said.

“Don’t be afraid to take a leap into something that may be unfamiliar,” Schupp said. “A lot of times, the more service-oriented events are our more successful ones.”

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