In years past, Greek Week participants spent several days raising money for various charities, but never got the chance to see the impact of their donations. But this year, Greek Week organizers are hoping to change that by giving the money to local charities, and have already raising $48 thousand to help that cause.

In addition to donating money, participants are also giving their time and service to local charities, including the campus group Will Work for Food.

Nursing senior Dayna Brooks, one of the co-directors of Greek Week, said this shift is beneficial for both participants and the charities they are helping.

“It’s really great to just get involved,” she said. “Not just to donate money because a lot of people just do that. We’ve really been focusing this year on service and giving back to the community.”

Steven Weinberg, LSA senior and president of Will Work For Food, said he is excited to partner with the Greek community for the week because the push to help local charities through both time and money is at the core of his group’s mission.

“Students are realizing the straining economic issues of our time and responding by becoming increasingly involved with community service work while still donating the money we can,” he said.

He added that Greek Week’s unique format also motivated him to work with the organization.

“We were drawn to the social and competitive aspects of the community service work done during Greek Week,” he said. “We want to build upon this idea of making community service something social that you can do with friends.”

Rachael Reeves, president of the Panhellenic Association, said she was very “impressed” with Greek Week’s dedication to help local charities.

“While it is always great how much money we raise as a community, it is also important to have a more direct involvement with the charities themselves as many of our chapters were created to further philanthropic pursuits,” she said.

Greek Week, which runs from March 23 until April 1, pits 13 teams made up of members of all four Greek councils against one another in a variety of competitions to encourage participants to raise money.

As a supplement to Greek Week this year, participants took part in the first annual Service Day, which allowed about 300 volunteers to get directly involved with local charities.

Brooks said Service Day gave students the chance to do something besides the typical Greek Week events.

“I also think the members of the Greek community were excited to do something other than participating in competitive events such as State Street Day and Diag Day,” she said. “Our first annual Service Day allowed over 300 individuals to help local charities in both Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti complete projects that would benefit our area directly.”

LSA senior Liz Henley, co-director of Greek Week, said the shift to more service was one of the main goals for this year’s Greek Week.

“When Dayna and I were appointed as co-directors, one of our big goals for Greek Week 2009 was to make it more service-oriented,” she said. “I feel that we’ve really done that.”

On Monday, organizers are hosting another event, called Diag Day, to bring participants closer to the charities. The event will feature children’s games like spelling bees and mascot competitions as well as a can castle building competition. The kids from Peace Neighborhood Center, one of the charities Greek Week is helping, will be judging castles the teams make out of the canned foods they collected over the semester.

“It’s really fun to get the kids involved and they get to judge big structures that Greek Week participants make,” Henley said.

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