Philanthropy bridges gap between College and city

Students at the College of William and Mary are used to calling themselves members of the Tribe, but at the Spring FISH Market last weekend, “community” was the watchword.

Alpha Phi Omega and Beta Theta Pi hosted their first Spring FISH Market in Merchants Square on Saturday. Proceeds from the event were donated to FISH, a local volunteer group that provides emergency relief to members of the community, and Global Playground, a nonprofit whose roots lie at the College but whose influence extends worldwide.

“We want to raise food and clothing donations for FISH and also raise money for Global Playground, which is a nonprofit started by two William and Mary [alumni],” former APO vice president of philanthropy Aidan De Sena ’13 said.

Global Playground is a nonprofit founded in 2006 by Doug Bunch ’06 and Doug Smith ’06. The organization’s most recent project is building a primary school in Vietnam.

The event was created to encourage philanthropy at the College outside of the Greek community. To reflect this goal, the organizers worked to gear the event toward the student body as a whole, as well as toward the rest of the local community.

“We decided that we’d like to make a philanthropy that went past the Greek community,” Beta President Nick Hampson ’13 said.

Hampson, who played a major role in the organization of the event, emphasized the goal of strengthening the bond between the College and the greater community.

“We want to work with the community, and show our culture to the community,” he said. “What I hope to come out of it is thinking of philanthropy events in a new way.”

In light of this goal, selecting a location for the event became a key component in the attempt to bridge the gap between the College and the city.

“We’re hoping this is a way to bridge William and Mary and the community, by having it [the event] in Merchants Square,” De Sena said.

APO’s current vice president of philanthropy, Abby Ahearn ’13, agreed that a key objective of the event was to enhance collaboration between the College and the rest of the community by exposing what the College has to offer.

“It seems like the community is really supporting this event,” she said. “It is a really great resource that more people should tap.”

The FISH Market was originally scheduled for last semester, but the Merchants Association preferred to postpone it until the spring. Preparations for the event have been taking place since the fall.

“We [have] had biweekly meetings since last semester,” De Sena said. “We had to come up with a marketing plan for the Merchants Association to make sure we were professional, we had to do a lot of running around, and we had to ask for donations.”

Despite these setbacks, Ahearn believed that the overall experience of working with Merchants Square was a positive one.

“They [the Merchants Association] have been really great to work with,” she said.

In the week leading up to the event, members of Beta collected donations of clothing and non-perishable food on the Sadler Center terrace, while members of APO sold raffle tickets for a Kindle Fire and other prizes from different businesses in Merchants Square. At the event Saturday, other student organizations, including Reveille, the Gentlemen of the College, Doubletake and a jazz ensemble, provided entertainment.

This collaboration of student groups within the College reflects the greater unity that the organizers of the Spring FISH Market were aiming to achieve between the College and the outside community. De Sena called the event a “collective William and Mary effort.”

“It’s great to see so many organizations come together,” he said. “Hopefully, this will become an annual event.”

The impact of the event was both local and international. FISH works to improve the quality of life of members of the Williamsburg community by collecting food, cash and clothing donations. Meanwhile, Global Playground provides educational opportunities worldwide by building schools in developing communities.

“I really think that Global Playground is a great nonprofit, and I love that we work with them, and I want people to have a lot of fun,” Ahearn said.

While inclement weather forced the event to end early, the organizers were grateful for the time they had and hope to bring the Spring FISH Market back next year.

“We appreciate people just sitting down and listening,” De Sena said.


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