Brothers in Chico Lend Helping Hand in Oroville Dam Crisis 

On Feb. 7, damage to the main spillway of the Oroville Dam, located in Northern California,  forced thousands upon thousands of residents to evacuate from the area.

Chico welcomed the residents with open arms and became their place of refuge. Many organizations answered the call to action, with the  Red Cross setting up camp at nearby fairgrounds to assist those who had been displaced from their homes.  Among the helping hands were the men of the Phi-Chi chapter at California State University-Chico.

As those affected by the situation flowed into Chico, brothers immediately began to ask what they could do to aid in the relief efforts.  The members rounded up cases of water, food, and hand sanitizer and brought the supplies to one of the larger evacuation points.

Brothers of the Phi-Chi chapter made the largest contribution, though, on the fairgrounds with the Red Cross.  A few days after the initial evacuation order, brothers rose early in the morning and spent most of the day cleaning used cots where the evacuated had slept.  Altogether, the men washed close to 900 cots.

“It’s not very often that you have a state emergency happening near you, so there were thousands of other people in Chico, the streets were filled, the fairgrounds were packed,” said Austin McKinsey, standards chairman for the Phi-Chi chapter.  “They [the Red Cross] needed our help, not just from Lambda Chi, but all of the organizations on campus.”

The chapter sent 11 men to help in any way they could for the Red Cross, knowing that their service would benefit people who had abandoned their lives in an instant, having no choice in the matter.

“I can only imagine it must be pretty terrifying to leave everything behind,” said Douglas Cue, High Alpha of the Phi-Chi chapter. “It’s good to know that there are people in the community out there that are willing to help you and people who you don’t necessarily know, but who are your neighbors.”

Though the Phi-Chi chapter was just a small part of the relief efforts, their willingness to work made all the difference.

“Anytime that you can go out into the community and you are getting together as a brotherhood, and doing good community service, it’s really rewarding,” said Cue.  “Obviously, it helps those in need, but it’s really impactful and it’s probably one of those things that you will remember doing after you graduate and you move on with your life.”

Once the chapter has completed their service to those affected by the Oroville Dam, they look forward to continuing their partnership with the Red Cross, along with their local fire department.  In a new community service project, brothers will work with the fire department to learn how to properly install  smoke detectors.

With this knowledge and the help of the Red Cross, the chapter plans to install smoke detectors in low-income housing around the area.

So, whether helping with a state emergency or installing smoke detectors, the men in Chico will continue to grow upon the standard of community service on which they were founded.

“We try to keep that mindset that community service really is what brings us together,” said McKinsey.  “It’s waking up early and going together to help someone out, that’s what really brings you together as friends and brothers, so I think it’s really cool that we have been able to keep up that vision of the guys that started up our chapter house here in finding these opportunities and going through with them.”