On a sunny Saturday morning, the Greater Chicago Food Depository parking lot was filled with cars displaying Greek letters around license plates. Inside the building, you could see Greek apparel, hugs and handshakes and hear banter between people who seemed like they’ve known each other for ages.
Members of the Divine Nine participated as a collective in the first-ever Souper Bowl Repack Competition at the Food Depository’s warehouse. This friendly competition brought together 51 volunteers to see who could pack the most food during one volunteer shift. Together, they would end up packing over eight thousand meals.
Divine Nine organizations are more than just sororities and fraternities – their letters and colors symbolize community, service, and importantly, Black History. The National Pan-Hellenic Council, Inc. (NPHC), also known as the Divine Nine, was founded at Howard University in 1930 with a focus on service and community. The five original founders were seeking kinship in predominately white Ivy League schools where Black students were often facing isolation and segregation.
For Monique Batteast, staff member of the Food Depository and member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., this repack was a new way to bring all these organizations together.
Batteast was part of the planning team alongside Shammrie Brown, member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., and Kim Vann. Although Divine Nine members have supported our mission and our network of partners, hosting them to participate in a friendly competition was long overdue.
“It warms my heart to bring together two worlds that are doing a service to all,” Batteast said.
The Food Depository is one of many organizations and causes the members of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. support. They also provide scholarships to young Black men and women to continue their education.
Ernest Bryant, member of Phi Beta Sigma’s graduate chapter, has been a member for over 24 years and is looking forward to continuing this partnership with the Food Depository and expanding the group of volunteers that join them in the future.
“It’s a big deal that people are volunteering their time on a Saturday morning. For us, it’s a big deal because we know we’re making an impact in our community and in Cook County,” Bryant said.
Members of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., are no strangers to repacking food. Some of the members founded and have been managing a food pantry in West Woodlawn through the Edward G. Irving Foundation, and in partnership with the Food Depository, for about three years. For Patrick Price, bringing together these nine organizations for the event opened opportunities for members to continue doing the work of service.
“It’s good all around… it allows you to foster that sense of helping,” said Price.
For one of the newer members of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., Daniel Estelle, this competition provided hope of all the great work that can be done as a collective. “It feels good to be here linking with all of the Divine Nine and seeing everybody put in the work for the community,” Estelle said.
Food Depository board members Dr. Waldo E. Johnson, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., and Monica Moss, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., also attended the event.
“The Food Depository is nothing without community engagement,” said Moss. “These organizations are rooted and built upon community service. Having them come together – you see the joy.”
The joy was seen, felt and heard everywhere. Members of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. described the event as electric. The music, the calls and the laughs were contagious from the beginning to the end of the competition. These groups came together to serve and they delivered. With a total of 389 food boxes packed, the Divine Nine’s legacy of service was alive.
Thank you to those who joined us and to those who will in the future.
- Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. (3rd Place)
- Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
- Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.
- Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.
- Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. (1st Place)
- Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. (2nd Place)
- Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.
- Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc.
- Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc.