University of Arkansas Brothers Raise 60,000 Pounds of Food For Local Food Pantry, Maintain Strong Bond

Located in the heart of Fayetteville, Ark., LifeSource International does not look like much from the outside. A modest, brick building, it could easily be lost in the hustle and bustle of the shops around it.  However, the phrase on the sign above the door assures it is a force to be reckoned with: “Strengthening Families, Building Communities.”

Studies have shown that 1 in 4 people go hungry in Northwest Arkansas and the area ranks number one in food insecurity in the state. For almost 15 years, LifeSource has been a beacon of hope for the people of Fayetteville, allowing members of the community to escape the facts and figures.

First and foremost, LifeSource serves as a food pantry, but extends its ability to strengthen families by offering a clothing closet, after- school programs, adult education, and family and marital counseling. For Executive Director Jimmie Conduff, a happy family is maintained by much more than food.

“We know that filling the need of food and clothing, it’s a need but sometimes that doesn’t solve the problem,” said Conduff. “That’s why we do a little bit of everything else.”

But the need for food remains a constant for LifeSource. Enter Lambda Chi Alpha of the University of Arkansas.

Just some of the 60,000 pounds of food raised by Lambda Chi Alpha for LifeSource

For eight years, Lambda Chi has maintained a special relationship with LifeSource, helping to supply half of the organization’s food. This year alone, brothers helped raise 60,000 pounds of food, while a few years ago, brothers donated over 100,000 pounds.

Current chapter President Zach Hartnedy explained that the members of Lambda Chi feel the profound effects partnering with LifeSource every year.

“It’s easy for us to see the benefits of it when they feed so much of Northwest Arkansas as a whole and we are able to help out with almost half of their food every year,” said Hartnedy.

To raise this staggering amount of food year after year, University of Arkansas brothers host  one of the largest Watermelon Bust events across the country. Sororities on campus compete against each other in different events to earn points. These points come from watermelon tosses, a volleyball tournament and raising cans, which generates the most points. The winning sorority is awarded an all-expenses-paid function with Lambda Chi.

Many competitions are held during Watermelon Bust to earn points, one of which is the famous watermelon toss.

“It’s a really unique event, it’s funny and it’s fun,” said Conduff. “I got to go to one about two years ago and they asked me to help judge one of the events.  It was really cool because I haven’t been able to see that part of it.”

But while brothers and sorority members are out having a good time at the event, there is always the underlying feeling of helping those in need.

“It’s an incredibly humbling experience, what we do to have fun and to help out really has that much of an impact on other people,” said Hartnedy. “We preach that fraternities aren’t everything you see on the news, but we do good and to see that so firsthand has been incredible for me.”

Watermelon Bust allows brothers to help from their home base, but they can also be found volunteering their time at LifeSource.  In addition to continuing their efforts to donate food, Lambda Chi has become involved with after-school programs.

“They [Lambda Chi] came during our after-school program, which is volunteer-based,” said Conduff. “Several of the guys have come through the years and asked if they could do a Christmas party and buy all of the kids in the after-school program gifts.”

The Christmas party has now become a staple for Lambda Chi, with brothers buying and wrapping gifts for about 40 children this year. Former chapter President Alpha Nick Beyer insists that the connection brothers form with not only the children, but all people affected by LifeSource helps shape them far beyond their college years.

“There is no better way to grow as a man than to serve other people,” said Beyer. “In college, time is probably our biggest investment and if guys can continue to be faithful in investing time, they are going to grow a lot more as men and individuals which will benefit them for the rest of their lives.”

The Gamma Chi chapter recently received an award for LifeSource’s Donor of the Year. Members of the fraternity joined those whom they have helped at a lunch banquet where many thank yous were received and tears were shed when Lambda Chi’s efforts were acknowledged.

“It’s given me eyes to see how much of our community is in need,” sad Beyer. “We live in a great area, but just to see how much giving time and resources can affect the lives of others is really cool and something I will remember for the rest of my life, not just college.”

As Hartnedy and the rest of his brothers look forward to many years of serving LifeSource and planning bigger and better events, the core of their mission will remain feeding families in need and ultimately changing lives.

“I want to say thank you to Lambda Chi,” said Conduff. “They are feeding the kids and the whole family. That is huge.”