There are some images about itself that the Greek system tries to promote: its members do lots of philanthropy, for example.

Julie Rowe
Lauren Leland founded Homeless: Awareness To Action, a group that collects cans and donates them to the Washtenaw County Homeless Shelter. (CLIF REEDER/Daily)

There are others that the Greek system tries to fight: that its members drink lots of beer.

Some members of the University’s Greek system are combining those activities to help the area’s homeless.

The Homelessness: Awareness To Action organization is using the 1976 Michigan Beverage Container Act – an initiative enacted to curb pollution by rewarding people with 10 cents for each recycled can or bottle – to raise money for charities that help the homeless.

LSA freshman Lauren Leland, who is vice president of the charity and a member of Kappa Alpha Theta, said the charity utilizes what is already widely available. “We saw homelessness as a real problem in Ann Arbor,” Leland said. “We wanted to do what we could with the resources we have on campus.”

According to the most Washtenaw County estimates available, on a given night in 2005 there were about 374 sheltered and unsheltered homeless individuals in the county.

The charity decided to help the homeless by collecting empty cans from events throughout campus – including Greek parties – and donating the money from redeemed cans to the Washtenaw County Homeless Shelter.

Leland said the first can collection took place Friday night at an Alpha Epsilon Pi party.

“We set up garbage cans before the party to collect the cans and then we picked them up and brought them to Kroger,” Leland said. “We made $100 and 100 percent of that money is being donated to the homeless shelter.”

Ari Parritz, president of Alpha Epsilon Pi, said his fraternity was more than willing to get involved in the effort.

“Alpha Epsilon Pi was founded on community involvement,” Parritz said, who mentioned that one of his fraternity’s members is also in the charity. “We jumped at the opportunity.”

The charity has also set up garbage bags at the Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity house for the brothers to dispose of any beverage containers they use.

“By starting at one or two fraternities, we hope that the other Greek houses will follow,” Leland said.

Leland said the program takes a reality of campus life and turns it into a way to help those in need. She said that collecting cans from big events is one of the most efficient ways to generate funds for charity.

“We wanted to use what’s available,” she said. “And the fact is, there’s beer and other cans and there is money there that can go to the community.”

The organizers of Alternative Spring Break have also used can redemption drives to fund aspects of their organization. Emily Pakula, a member of the ASB Leadership Team, said there have been many similar drives and that they have always been successful. “Every can drive brings in money,” she said. “And every dime counts.”

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