The group photos: Photo courtesy of Marlin Heyward
BY JEFFREY ZANKER, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG — The Eta Rho Educational Services of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. will participate in the 2017 Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service for the fifth time next month. The group will continue their project titled “Midtown Neighborhood Family Support Care Packages.”
“Dr. King once said that ‘Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” said Bill Puller, long-time Eta Rho member and founder of the Shirley Proctor Puller Foundation. “We all are responsible for our fellow man… and to those who are less fortunate than us.”
The boys of Eta Rho will reach out to five local churches in finding families on public assistance that need extra help. The group will give out bags of nonperishable hygiene and household items for the families, which will include toilet paper, toothpaste, dishwasher soap, plastic utensils, cleaning supplies and first-aid kits.
“These items cannot be obtained with food stamps,” said Puller.
“The project is an augmentation of their assistance,” said Marlin Heyward, who serves as vice basileus for the Eta Rho Chapter.
Heyward, 48, said that Christmas often puts pressure on people to buy bigger items than needed.
“This is where small, trivial items become the most important,” he said. “What looks trivial becomes needy especially this time of year.”
The Eta Rho chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. is a non-profit service-based organization that helps promote academic excellence through activities and events. Their popular program entitled Pathfinder helps adolescent males enhance their resiliency to challenges and hardships while developing leadership skills.
There are some 63 members of the Eta Rho chapter, including Senator Darryl Rouson, who brought the MLK Day of Service to St. Petersburg in 2012.
The five St. Pete churches assisting include Mt. Zion Primitive Baptist church, Cross and Anvil/Mt. Zion AME Church, Rock of Jesus Missionary Baptist, Gethsemane Missionary Baptist and Word for Life Fellowship.
Being awarded $5,000 this year, Heyward and his team is expected to deliver 45 totes of non-perishable items, with each tote estimated to cost around $100.
Sunday, Jan. 15, the brothers will purchase the items from Walmart Supercenter and distribute them to the selected families at four churches, leaving one church for the actual day of service.
Later that day, a fellowship meeting is scheduled between the group and families. Heyward said that the project has improved over the years because of suggestions followed from the families, such as plastic totes and an extra day to distribute.
“It has grown in popularity,” Heyward said. “People will ask if I’m doing the same project and tell me of families that are in need.”
Eta Rho chapter holds many events throughout the year, including their annual talent hunt, golf tournament, distribution of Thanksgiving baskets and Achievement Week program. These events help sponsor scholarships for upcoming college students.
“We do not have the option of not serving; it is a requirement,” Puller finished.