During a semester in which derailed activities are somewhat the norm, Chi Delta Alpha (XDA) has stayed on track with its mission to serve.

“I didn’t even think it was an option to not do service projects,” said Erin Upton, a service officer for the Virginia Tech service sorority.  “I ran [for the executive board] on the idea that we would do whatever we could to keep our services going and that’s given me a sense of purpose this semester.”

Pandemic precautions have restricted many of the group’s traditional activities, but XDA has found creative ways to maintain its long-standing service relationships with organizations like Special Olympics Virginia and Warm Hearth Village, while also forging new partnerships with such groups as the New River Valley Chapter of Project Linus, which makes blankets for hospital-bound children. Some projects are entirely virtual, while others include a modified in-person aspect, done in accordance to public health guidelines.

“Everyone can contribute in some way, based on their comfort level,” said Maddie Martin, XDA president. “We just thought, now is the time to be stepping up and serving, not stopping.”

Virginia Tech’s first service sorority, XDA was founded in 1967 with an aim of providing women at the university a vehicle for helping in the community. Today, it’s that same attitude that still attracts Hokies.

“What XDA did for me is it opened my eyes to what is a mile, two miles from campus that some students don’t realize. That was when I really knew Virginia Tech was home,” said Lily Foster, a junior studying sociology and criminology and one of the group’s pledge advisors. “I’m so thankful to be able to give back to this community that is letting me live here and get an education here.”

The group is an example of the types of creative approaches taken to continue fostering community at Virginia Tech and highlighted by Student Affairs’ Hokies Can Do campaign.

Motivated by the drive to continue their work, Martin said for perhaps the first-time members worked through the summer to connect with community partners and assess the needs XDA could help meet in the fall.

“We know adding volunteers to the mix can be overwhelming for project coordinators [in the community]," said Martin, a senior studying multimedia journalism. “So, that’s been a huge growing point with us, we have to do the service that’s needed, not just that we want to do.”

One area in which they’ve been able to help came as a result of their longstanding relationship with Special Olympics Virginia and during a time when the nonprofit was limited in both in sporting and fundraising events it could hold.

“Special Olympics have really been a part of what they’ve done for multiple decades,” said Nancy Morehouse,  Southwest Region director of Special Olympics. “Everything is so uncertain right now, but what we do know is if we just wait for things to get better our base and our infrastructure will erode. Even our athletes and families will lose interest.”

XDA provided not only the people needed to play physically distance, unified — where athletes and volunteers compete together — bocce, each week, but also partners with athletes for virtual fitness combines. They also help hold an area-wide Zoom meeting every other week, which includes a fun theme, such as trivia, bingo, or their recent Halloween party.

“In this situation, our athletes are more isolated than ever. It’s really been tough on them,” Morehouse said. “So, this is a really big deal, especially the unified aspect of it. That is so important to our athletes because it signals value.”

Morehouse said the initiative taken by the sorority members served as encouragement for the entire organization.

“We knew it would be important to keep everyone engaged and having the energy from XDA really motivated us to take a proactive approach,” she said.

Serving the community in such ways has also helped the members of XDA cope with a semester unlike anything they’d previously experienced.

“With everything going on COVID-wise, and everything in the world in general, this has been a distraction in a really good way,” said Foster. “It’s taken my mind off all the bad and put in on something very good.”

— Written by Travis Williams