Fraternity camps out at Coffman to raise funds for homeless

by Emily Dalnodar

Ron Jones went to college for drafting before taking a job as a welder and later as a truck driver. He had a livable wage and a nice home. Then the seizures started.
Since March last year, Jones has lived on the streets — his seizures prevent him from working — and the local homeless shelters provide him with some security.
Jones was on campus Thursday helping members of the Kappa Sigma fraternity raise money for St. Stephen’s Shelter in south Minneapolis by selling raffle tickets and sleeping in tents on the front lawn of Coffman Union.
Their attention-grabbing efforts to raise awareness garnered $4,500 for St. Stephen’s when they set up tents last year. Fraternity members hope to raise twice as much this time around.
“Last year it was absolutely wonderful, and it took us by surprise by how successful it was,” said Ed Murphy, the executive director of St. Stephen’s human services. “The feedback I got on that group last year was absolutely wonderful.”
St. Stephen’s is a 40-bed shelter for men that provides meals, access to medical care, laundry facilities, English classes and other basic services. Kappa Sigma vowed to help the shelter keep its doors open to as many people as possible.
The group spent the day selling T-shirts and raffle tickets for one of 37 different prizes donated by sponsors such as the Minnesota Vikings, Rainbow Foods, Al’s Breakfast, The Wildside Salon and FuncoLand.
Despite forecasts of wind and rain, the group camped out all night to pay homage to the estimated 15,000 Minnesotans — 4,000 of them in the Twin Cities — who are homeless or at risk of losing housing.
Although the weather forced the members inside Coffman Union for much of Thursday afternoon, members said their efforts were not lost.
“Even without money, students are willing to listen and seem concerned and willing to help,” said Nathan Walsh, Kappa Sigma president and senior in design communications and studio arts.
Walsh said the fraternity had worked with St. Stephen’s for the past three years doing smaller jobs, such as cooking dinner or checking in people. Despite the aid, Walsh said he felt it wasn’t enough.
“We have 40 guys whose energy we could tap into and focus it into better things,” Walsh said.
The other fraternity members responded in kind by pulling together a massive effort that began months before Thursday’s camp-out.
“This is the biggest philanthropy event I’ve ever been involved in,” said John Katzung, a Kappa Sigma member and sophomore in mechanical engineering. “It’s a good cause that doesn’t get much attention.”