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Chico State

Chico State Greeks Join Forces to Provide For Evacuees

Piles of donated goods sit on the lawn in front of the Phi Kappa Tau house, with a sign reading "Donate here."
Jason Halley / University Photographer

The fraternity Phi Kappa Tau collected donations immediately as the Camp Fire, which started near the community of Pulga in the Feather River canyon carries smoke over campus on Thursday, November 8, 2018 in Chico, Calif. With high winds, it is growing quickly and multiple mandatory evacuations have been ordered for residents in and around Paradise. (Jason Halley/University Photographer/CSU Chico)

The most powerful instance of Greek cooperation in recent memory had no template.

This was no Greek Week. No plan was in place for fundraising. No friendly competition between fraternities or sororities was scheduled.

Jared Groman didn’t have the reputation of Phi Kappa Tau, the fraternity over which he presides, on his mind on the morning of November 8, as the North State’s sunlight was blotted out by smoke from the Camp Fire.

When Groman rushed to post in the InterFraternity Council (IFC) Facebook group, offering up the PKT house at Fifth and Hazel Streets as a donation drop-off location, his only consideration was that the ample space on the house’s lawn would be the best single location for a unified donation spot.

Jared Groman carries a box full of goods in front of the Phi Kappa Tau house.
Groman, Phi Kappa Tau, and many other Chico State Greeks came to the aid of Butte County evacuees as soon as they got news of the devastating Camp Fire.

By the end of the day, Groman said, members from nearly all of the 12 recognized Chico State Greek organization had contributed in some form, as dozens of members packed the PKT house’s yard with goods ready to be distributed to victims of the destructive Camp Fire, raging through Paradise and other communities to the east. Cases of bottled water, hundreds of various toiletries, a half pallet of canned tuna, beans and vegetables, and dozens of garbage bags stuffed with clothes burgeoned forth from the fraternity house’s lot, temporarily labeled the Greek Unity Donation Center. Donations were distributed to the Neighborhood Church in Chico that night.

“We obviously had no idea about the massive scale of this tragedy on the first day. But we did know they’d need stuff,” said Groman, a senior who works as an IFC paraprofessional in Student Life and Leadership. “We decided to dive into it, full force. We bought Walmart out of every hygiene product, water bottle, canned food item we could. And then we watched donations and support pile in all day.”

Students fill a large bucket full of canned and boxed foods.
“We decided to dive into it, full force. We bought Walmart out of every hygiene product, water bottle, canned food item we could. And then we watched donations and support pile in all day.”

With PKT leading the way in rounding up donations, Chico State fraternities and sororities came together in a way that came as no surprise to Groman—even if the volume did. In his fifth year at Chico State, he said he feels ingrained in the local community, and that sentiment was on display among his fraternity brothers, too.

“I’ve always felt the vibe in this town is a community of caring, whether you know people or not,” Groman said. “Even in the Greek Life community, where we are always trying to promote our own organizations, usually in competition with each other—when it came time to respond, we came together as one. People dropped their sense of isolationism, their own priorities, and we realized the impact we could make as a group.”

Alumni from Chico State fraternities responded that day, too, with some sending up a pair of trailers from the Bay Area loaded with goods and supplies to help augment the fraternity’s donations. The urge to step forward and help, even from afar, spoke to the collective sense of giving that sprung forth that day.

“It was never about any one fraternity or sorority,” Groman said. “It was just about giving. The generosity, the response in the community right away, was shocking.”