Emily Burgess '23 reflects on the importance of recognizing the community that you live in and understanding how you can work to make a positive impact.
The Kernodle Center for Civic Life is dedicated to connecting Elon University students and organizations with over 80 amazing community partners they work with. As the primary organizations that Elon students serve, community partnerships are integral to life at Elon. The partnerships provide Elon students with life-changing opportunities to learn about community needs and social issues.
The members of Elon’s chapter of Alpha Chi Omega sorority know firsthand the impact of working with a community partner. The sorority’s philanthropy is domestic abuse awareness and they aim to educate Elon students and the community about it while raising funds for the local women’s shelter, Family Abuse Services of Alamance County. Emily Burgess ’23, the previous vice president of philanthropy for Alpha Chi Omega, spoke about the organization’s work with the Alamance-based community partner.
Burgess, a human services studies major, was drawn to become more involved in Alpha Chi Omega because of her passion as an advocate for domestic violence and sexual assault victims. She had wanted to work in this area since high school and saw the opportunity to dip her feet into it through Alpha Chi.
“I’ve been very involved in service throughout my whole life, it has always been very prevalent in my family,” Burgess said. “I’m very passionate about being able to make a difference in the lives around me and the place I am living. And in working with Family Abuse Services, I get to see that direct impact and learn how to best serve my community.”
As the vice president of philanthropy, she was responsible for planning all philanthropy events for the spring and fall 2022 semesters. This was a nice way to bring awareness to the issue of domestic violence and connect with the Family Abuse Services (FAS) coordinator, as well as to grow as a person.
Alpha Chi Omega’s philanthropy is focused on domestic violence awareness, and every chapter has to be within a five-mile radius of a women’s shelter. The national organization places a lot of emphasis on making an impact locally and connecting with the community around you.
“Rather than donating to national domestic violence services, Alpha Chi really wants us to make a local impact by working with domestic violence organizations in our area. That makes the work we do stand out from the rest,” she said.
All money raised throughout the year is donated to FAS, providing a direct contribution to the community and allowing the members to see that effect.
All chapter members are trained to work personally with the women at the shelter. The training includes Domestic Violence 101, a session provided by FAS explaining its role and different forms of domestic violence, statistics, healthy versus unhealthy relationships, Alamance County statistics and language to use.
With events such as the “Walk a Mile in Their Shoes” event, Alpha Chi Omega has worked to bring awareness to the fact that one in four women in the U.S. are victims of domestic violence. The event happened for the first time last fall and encouraged attendees to wear purple or white to support domestic violence awareness. A visual presentation with purple and white balloons illustrated the number of people to be affected by domestic violence.
“I loved this event because we were able to raise awareness on campus about domestic violence. A lot of students came up to the group asking what we were walking for, and it was really impactful for us to bring that situation to light on campus.”
The Kernodle Center for Civic Life encourages students to seek out these incredible service connections in Alamance County. Working with community partners can provide valuable takeaways, such as recognizing the importance of the community you live in and understanding how to make a positive impact. By working with community partners, you can see firsthand the direct impact you can make in your own “backyard.”
“Working with FAS has taught me so much about the area I live in but also how I want to continue to make an impact wherever I live post-Elon,” Burgess said.
In terms of upcoming philanthropy events to support Family Abuse Services of Alamance County, Alpha Chi Omega is hosting “Stack ’em High with Alpha Chi” on Tuesday, April 4 from 5 to 8 p.m., and a pop-up thrift shop later in the semester.