Phi Gamma Delta fundraises money for victims of California wildfires

By on December 4, 2018

Photo courtesy of Kaite Alexander
Paradise, California was consumed in fire this past November which ended up spreading throughout Northern California, making it the nation’s deadliest wildfire in a century, according to USA Today. Because of this, the brothers of Phi Gamma Delta (FIJI) wanted to do something to help the victims in the aftermath of this natural disaster.

FIJI has been following their fraternity’s mission of building courageous leaders who serve the world as they have fundraised money for people affected by these California wildfires. FIJI’s fundraiser was located in the Carl Hansen Student Center, where the brothers collected donations.

“We’re including home essentials like bedding, towels, pillows, clothing, something that you would lose in a fire,” FIJI’s Correspondence Secretary Alex Bernabe said, who lives in San Diego. Bernabe says that these incidents are not uncommon.

“I’ve dealt with fires my entire life. We had a fire in 2004 come right through our town and rip it all apart,” Bernabe said. “I was in (Los Angeles) over Thanksgiving break, and I saw what happened because it was contained. I was like, ‘Wow, I just want to help.’”

Senior journalism major Brooke Reilly also had her own experience witnessing the damage done to California while she was interning there.

“I was interning with two television news stations, so I learned a lot about covering wildfires. I was in charge of monitoring updates and logging press conferences,” Reilly said. “I also saw some flames from my balcony on the evening of Friday, Nov. 9. The fires were luckily far enough away, but I was a little bit nervous that night.”

Reilly said that it is great what FIJI is doing to help the victims of the fires.

“It really is devastating to see how many people lost so much,” Reilly said. “Quinnipiac has several ties to California between the QU in LA program and students being from there. I think that any contribution can go a long way.”

Bernabe was determined to help those in need, so he turned to his brothers to support this idea. It didn’t take long for all of the members to be on board with the plan, including sophomore physical therapy major and Intramurals Chairman Edwin Daneelian who also lives in California. He said that he has some friends there whose homes were damaged by the fire.

“I haven’t gotten the chance to go back home yet so I haven’t seen any of it first hand, but I know that from last year’s fire, it was a lot closer to my house,” Daneelian said. “You see how much it impacts everything. It’s like we need to start everything back from the ground up.”

Daneelian has branched out FIJI’s fundraiser to his former high school in Los Angeles, Rose and Alex Pilibos Armenian School, where their student council will help FIJI with their donative drive.

“The school has had their annual walk-a-thon which is a big fundraiser that my high school does,” Daneelian said. “So (the principal) said once that fundraiser is done (she) will shift the focus of the student body to getting parents and family and alumni to donate.”

Junior journalism major Sean Raggio finds FIJI’s efforts to collect donations to be a great thing as well as a look into their character as a whole.

“I’m not sure, but I don’t even think this is their philanthropy through their fraternity, just something of their doing of their own accord,” Raggio said. “It really says a lot about the character of the guys in FIJI. In a world where so many people think, ‘If I don’t do it, someone else will,’ these guys didn’t think that way, they went and took action.”

Junior biomedical science major and newly elected President of FIJI Krisjanis Ule said that the fraternity encourages their members to come up with ideas like this that they want to pursue.

“The biggest thing for us is if a brother is really passionate about something, we just let them think of an idea, try to plan something out, and if it works out logistically then we all are on board with it,” Ule said. “As long as we can get all the proper paperwork done with the school in terms of tabling, then it’s just mostly PR work in terms of spreading the word, and then as soon as we have guys posting things on social media like asking for donations then it kind of pretty easy from there.”

Senior journalism major Justin Cait is from Los Angeles and he said the fires were close to his family’s home and it burnt down a camp that his mother worked at.

“I have friends that that had to evacuate their homes in Calabasas and stay with family elsewhere during the fires, but luckily, none of those close to me lost homes or anything more serious than having fire retardant sprayed on their homes by airplanes.” Cait said.

Cait said that any kind of help will be great for those in need of help from the aftermath.

“I hope that the community in Paradise, California, in Northern California receives a ton of help because that city is completely destroyed all at the hands of nature,” Cait said. “It’s something that is unexpected, shocking and really scary, so I hope that Paradise recovers as soon as it can.”

FIJI will continue their donations on Wednesday, Dec. 5 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m, Thursday, Dec. 6 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and Friday, Dec. 7 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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