Written by Kelby Dolan, Director of Communication and Alumni Engagement
On Saturday morning of Convention, over 120 undergraduates served a collective 350+ volunteer hours in partnership with the United Way at the Children’s Home Society and Bayshore Memory Care. The two community service events helped over 100 people in the Naples community. The first group went to the Children’s Home Society of Florida where they landscaped and painted after a tropical storm damaged the property.
“Before we started, the Executive Director showed us how we were impacting their educational community,” said Prior Patrick Wright (Delta Zeta, ‘14). “The way the event was set up was to teach the value of community service. We were able to go into a place that needed help. By the time we left, we could immediately see our efforts moving forward. What took our large group a small amount time, would have taken their team multiple days.” Educational Leadership Consultant Samuel Friday added, “I was humbled to work alongside fraters who shared my sincere interest to give back. Despite the heat and humidity, we helped bring the children back to a more beautiful school.”
The next group traveled to Bayshore Memory Care to deliver teddy bears they stuffed at the hotel and spend time engaging with its residents. Sigma Alpha Mu volunteers participated in activities with residents to help Bayshore. In the weeks before Convention, Bayshore Executive Director Alicia Pratt discovered that resident Fred Averbuch (Wayne State, ‘57) is a Sammy. Mrs. Averbuch requested that only one or two young men meet with her husband so as not to overwhelm him with a large crowd. When the fraternity men arrived on site, two members from the Gamma Psi Chapter at Temple University were identified to meet with Fred, Fred’s wife, and personal assistant.
Dominic Amalfitano (Gamma Psi, ‘16), who was asked to take on the role minutes before, said, “Initially, I was nervous when I found out that I had been selected. I also understood Fred is our frater. The meaning of Brotherhood is essentially for life. It stretches out to all fraternity chapters. Focusing on that thought, I became more confident.” Dominic was joined by Tommy Moran (Gamma Psi, ‘15). “It was definitely a life-changing experience that hit close to home. I knew how much being in that setting meant to Tommy and to his family.” Tommy was emotionally moved to tears by the event and shared, “my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. We had to help her transition into a home – like this. I felt for
Fred’s family. What they were going through. He did not know exactly who we were but it meant quite a lot to be there for all of them.” Dr. Fred Averbuch, an ENT-otolaryngologist who served the Naples, Florida for over 20 years, joined Sigma Alpha Mu at Wayne State University where he received his medical degree.
Dominic, standing a patient distance from Fred and his wife, waited for Mrs. Averbuch to finish making his introduction to Fred. “Standing there next to him, I understood the troubles he and his wife were were going through. I wanted to bring back memories of the fraternity. I feel like wherever you are from we all have similar experiences for Sigma Alpha Mu. That’s something I wanted to bring out for him to see.” Dominic had been given visual aides to share including Fred’s 1957 pledge card, biographical information sheet, and composite photograph. Mrs. Averbuch helped Dominic describe each of the items. Dominic also had gifts to share with Fred that included a purple Sammy polo, Spring 2017 Octagonian, and a flag pin with Sigma Alpha Mu on the left and Israel on the right. “I saw his face light up and smile when we gave it to him,” recalled Dominic. “He held onto it closely, triggering memories for him, the most powerful item that we gave him.”
Dominic concluded his meeting with Dr. Averbuch. Mrs. Averbuch turned to personally thank Dominic and Tommy. The group went outside where Fred and Dominic played basketball on a small hoop outside in the garden. Bayshore’s Director of Nursing Joe Thompson reflected on how this type of community service is irreplaceable. “Endorphins are released when you sing, dance and interact,” states Joe, “you helped our residents do that. We thank Sigma Alpha Mu for coming.”
When the community service concluded at Bayshore, staff and volunteers gathered filling the lobby. To the group’s surprise, Dr. and Mrs. Averbuch joined for the concluding ceremony. The staff arranged a seat of honor for Fred where the Sammy volunteers serenaded him with the fraternal song, Fast and Firm. As the young men recited the creed, Fred nodded along mouthing the words. The volunteers triggered a memory in Dr. Averbuch and shared an awe-inspiring moment.
“I think about humanity which is one of the focal points in our Creed,” recalls Dominic, “Part of what makes us fraters in Sigma Alpha Mu is an innate desire to give back. This community service helped define that our fraternity experience is for a lifetime.”