With just a few minor modifications, the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity house at Wittenberg University will be ready to host a community Thanksgiving dinner Monday night.
“We’ll get rid of the pool table and put some seats there,” 20-year-old Ben Imlay noted as he walked around the house, which is home to about 50 members.
Imlay, a Wittenberg junior from New Albany, knows the popular stereotype of frat guys.
“Drunk idiots who treat people like crap,” he said.
But on Monday evening, the men of the local Fiji Sigma chapter will throw perhaps their biggest party yet — a $5 Thanksgiving dinner for anybody and everybody, with all proceeds going to the Springfield Promise Neighborhood.
“Having a Thanksgiving dinner at your fraternity house is definitely breaking those stereotypes,” Imlay said.
In past years, the frat has hosted a Thanksgiving dinner open only to fellow students. This year, primarily because of Imlay’s work with the Promise Neighborhood, the decision was made to throw open the doors of their house at 20 W. Ferncliff Place to the wider Springfield community.
They’re confident they have enough turkey, which will be prepared by the house chef. They hope they have enough sides.
“If people want to bring some food, that would be awesome,” Imlay said.
All students from Lincoln Elementary will be admitted free.
The Springfield Promise Neighborhood is a 110-block area in the Lincoln attendance zone, on the city’s south side, that has been the site of $65 million in revitalization since 2002.
One of the project’s primary goals is to boost academic performance in the neighborhood.
Imlay has tutored at Lincoln and has led a literacy club there as well. He’s now president of the Promise Alliance Club, a new student organization at Witt that facilitates involvement with the Promise Neighborhood.
“Wittenberg has just been phenomenal,” said Eric Smith, neighborhood organizer for the Promise Neighborhood project. “We’ve probably had over 100 students involved in our efforts.”
When Smith found out about the fraternity’s plans to host a community Thanksgiving dinner to benefit the project, he had an understandable reaction.
“It was a very pleasant surprise,” he said. “It’s an indication of Wittenberg opening up to the community. It’s fun to watch.”
To Imlay, the fraternity’s involvement makes perfect sense.
“We can still have parties on the weekends,” he said, “but why not use some of our manpower to do good in the community?”