When Hurricane Florence hit the Carolinas, it paused for no one. The families around the Wilmington area knew this better than anyone, as many homes were destroyed as part of the devastating aftermath of the storm.
But when all hope seemed lost for many of these families, an unlikely group of volunteers answered the call of duty.
Alex Mondshane of the Delta-Sigma chapter at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington was the first Lambda Chi Alpha brother to seek volunteer opportunities to help those affected by Florence. The pastor’s wife of Port City Compassion Church came to Mondshane’s door following the storm, offering boxes of food for everyone in his house. Mondshane expressed to her that they were alright but was quick to ask how he and his other chapter brothers could help. After the pastor’s wife left, Mondshane immediately alerted his chapter brothers that this was a chance for them to make a real difference in their community.
The next morning, after Mondshane gathered a few more of his fraternity brothers, they were on their way to the church to see what they could do.
Soon, Mondshane and and three other members were placed on a demolition team in charge of gutting flooded homes in the area. One of these members was the High Epsilon, Jordan Cooke.
Cooke’s family owns a rental company, Cooke Rentals (owned by Cooke’s father, who is also a brother of Lambda Chi Alpha from the University of North Carolina-Charlotte and who donated safety gear for the volunteers), where he said he learned a lot, but this experience served as a first for him and many others.
“I grew up around construction and had a basic knowledge, but a lot of it was really just learning on the site from the people who were working with the church,” said Cooke
The work was grueling at times. Members were in charge of going through the houses and moving furniture, pulling out insulation from the wall and ripping up the floors.
By the third day of volunteering, the number of Lambda Chi members had grown from three to around 15 members. Over the course of the 10 days the men were volunteering, 16 different student organizations joined the members, providing over 1600 hours of service.
Each day, according to Cooke, was extremely taxing and could last up to nine hours of physical activity. Cooke said it was difficult sometimes to see the state of some of the houses and just how much Florence took from some families.
“Emotionally, it was kind of a learning experience to be able to be with those families and keep in mind that this isn’t just a house that we are taking apart and saving, it is a home,” said Cooke. “The things that we may see as moldy, smelly trash are family belongings.”
Cooke was proud of the way the chapter members maneuvered the tough situations they were often put into to provide the best service they possibly could.
“I would say the most rewarding part of this whole experience was just being able to help these families and really see the impact that we can actually have as students, and I think that was awesome to see other students realize the impact we had,” said Cooke.
Now, Cooke says that this chapter is looking to stay involved in the relief efforts. The men made lasting connections with the families they assisted, so Cooke is now challenging his brothers to fundraise for some of them and continue to help restore what was lost.
“I didn’t want people to feel like once we were done with the first stage of the relief that it was just done,” assured Cooke. ” We want to continue helping these families and get them back on their feet.”
All in all, both Cooke and Mondshane say the experience was one they will never forget. To be able to give back to the community is a duty for all brothers of Lambda Chi, and the brothers of Wilmington are no different. Through a small act of kindness, Cooke hopes that he and his fellow chapter brothers were able to be a light in these families’ lives.
“We are not Lambda Chis by what we say that we are,” said Cooke, “we are Lambda Chis by what we do.”
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