Alpha Phi Omega: Brotherhood and Service in a Pandemic

Brothers Julia Melone (left) and Faith Ringressy (right) at Alpha Phi Omega’s big/little reveal. Photo by Julia Melone.

Cassandra Matthews ~ Assistant Editor

     The Mu Iota chapter of Alpha Phi Omega at the University of Lynchburg is still carrying out its service mission during the pandemic, and the chapter is continuing to welcome new members.

     Alpha Phi Omega is the largest co-ed service fraternity in the United States. Its motto is, “Be a Leader, Be a Friend, Be of Service,” and this motto is exemplified in how the brotherhood fosters among its members a drive to help the campus, community, and nation.

     Formal rush for Alpha Phi Omega has ended, but the organization is hosting continuous open bidding events. What this means is that interested individuals still have the opportunity to meet with the brothers of Alpha Phi Omega and receive an invitation, or bid, to join the chapter. The next one is Friday, Mar. 26, and the event will be a virtual escape room.  

     Julia Melone is a senior political science major, and she has been in Alpha Phi Omega since 2019. She currently serves as the Vice President of Membership, and she explained that the organization’s approach to brotherhood and community service has had to change due to COVID-19. 

     “We are not really able to bond by doing huge group service events anymore, or at least right now,” she said. “Many places are actually turning down our service for fear of getting us sick, even though they certainly need the help. They are forcing themselves to rely only on the help of a core or paid staff. One of my favorite soup kitchens is neither having its group dinners nor is it even allowing us to package the meals. It is just their own staff.”

     Despite these challenges, there are still opportunities available for members to engage with their community and with each other. Melone said, “We are still getting out there and helping out wherever we can, even in the pandemic. Some service has even moved to virtual where you might Facetime with a senior or record yourself reading a children’s book. We have even made blankets for hospitals at home and then turned them in, this way we are not in one big group at once. We are also still able to bond with each other in smaller groups or online as a whole.”

     Catherine Ruskan, a junior music major, has been in Alpha Phi Omega for five semesters. She said, “Alpha Phi Omega right now is working on focusing on finding new and creative ways to do service during the pandemic, like making cards and the kits that the Center for Community Engagement has been doing that let people take service home. I helped make a blanket, which I have never done and I was very proud that I took that time to make a blanket for someone in the Lynchburg community.”

     She highlighted that Alpha Phi Omega has worked with her to allow her to complete service hours in a way that is comfortable and safe. Ruskan explained, “For me, it is hard to do community service because I am at high risk with COVID-19, and I have been staying at my house in the Southside Housing area. Alpha Phi Omega is amazing at helping out in any way shape or form.”

     Continuing, Ruskan said, “Amid the pandemic, Alpha Phi Omega is still loving and caring towards others and would help anyone out without a doubt. These are reasons why I joined APO to begin with and why I am still involved. The only thing that is different about Alpha Phi Omega is that everything is online and meetings are a little bit shorter.”

     Melone added, “Alpha Phi Omega has been one of the best things I have ever done for myself. They have loved me at all times, when I needed it most. And they have helped me grow to be the community leader I am today. I will be forever grateful to this organization.”

     If you are interested in learning more about Alpha Phi Omega, you can email Julia Melone at

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