In 1911, Sigma Kappa Sorority sisters at Colby College sent the Mission Christmas gifts to deliver to island children. Seven years later, the Sorority chose the Mission as one of the philanthropic organizations to lend their support. Now more than a century later, there are 119 Sigma Kappa chapters and the Sorority still actively supports the Mission through not only gifts but also through service.
During 2018, Sigma Kappa Foundation wanted to create an opportunity for sisters to participate in a concept already deeply embedded in the Sorority’s values: service. A global pandemic later, this year marks the Sorority’s inaugural immersion trip with Mission programming. Last year, when the Foundation announced a June 2023 trip, more than 100 sisters applied for 15 available spots. Each applicant had to explain why service is important to them as an individual and how they contribute to their community.
Flash forward to last week, when the Sigma Kappas from across the country made the trek to Cherryfield to spend time volunteering for the Housing Improvement, Food Security, Family & Community Engagement, and Island Outreach programs. On their first day on the Downeast campus, they helped unpack, sort, and stock food in the food pantry, which serves hundreds of families in an average week. They also completed grounds work at a community member’s home prior to planned home repair as a part of the Housing Improvement program.
The next day, they learned more about the Christmas Program. The group created seven trees out of wood pallets for each of the Washington County schools participating in the EdGE program. Later, students in each EdGE program will be able to decorate the trees which will be displayed at their school. The sisters also set up two on-campus Story Walks for families and community members to use this summer.
On their last day of the trip, they boarded Sunbeam to assist Great Cranberry Island with a beach clean-up at Whistle and Preble Coves. Sigma Kappa got right to work, splitting into three groups. Within two hours, they had combed every inch of the beach for plastic wrapping, bottles, discarded ropes, and more. Maine islands often suffer from ocean trash carried to their beaches by the tides. Many islands conduct one, two, or even three beach clean-ups annually to fight pollution. Not only did they clean up a lot of the debris that had accumulated on the beaches, but the sisters also unearthed a few ghost traps from the beach. Ghost traps refer to lobster traps that have been pushed to coastlines and are unclaimed. If identified, salvageable traps are returned to their owners.
Following a satisfying lunch with the crew, the sisters piled onto the Sunbeam’s bow to repeat history. The group of 15 collegiates and alumnae recreated a photo of Sigma Kappas on Sunbeam III more than 70 years ago. This snap on the Sunbeam V capped off the sisters’ week-long trip to Maine to volunteer with the Mission, and further cemented a great partnership between two organizations dedicated to service.