June 26, 2019 | 87° F

Sigma Pi fraternity plants trees for touchdowns, grows new image for Rutgers' greek community


To commemorate every touchdown the Rutgers football team scores, Sigma Pi fraternity planted trees on Sunday afternoon at the Shiloh Community Gardens, located at the corner of Liberty and Nelson Streets in New Brunswick. COURTESY OF BRETT DONOVAN

To celebrate every touchdown scored by the Rutgers football team, Sigma Pi fraternity hosted "Trees for TDs," a community service project that aimed to plant a tree for every athletic victory on Sunday, no matter how small.

The event was held at Shiloh Community Gardens in conjunction with Elijah’s Promise, a New Brunswick-based nonprofit organization that strives to end poverty in the New Brunswick community.

“Trees for TDs” was initially started as part of Sigma Pi’s Altruistic Campus Experience (ACE) project last year," said Sigma Pi President Brett Donovan.

“‘Trees for TDs' is something very unique," said Donovan, a School of Arts and Sciences junior. "I think it catches everyone’s eye and brings the community together to plant some trees and give back."

Developed by John Passero, one of the Sigma Pi founding fathers in 2014, the fraternity trademarked the name “Trees for TDs” just after the completion of their first event.

Last year, 40 trees were planted outside of High Point Solutions Stadium on Busch campus by the fraternity to serve as a daily reminder of achievements made by the Rutgers football team and other students, according to the Sigma Pi official website.

“For us, it’s about giving back to Rutgers and the New Brunswick community,” Donovan said. “This year, we’re not doing it as part of our ACE project. We decided to trademark ‘Trees for TDs’ as our own event and we’re going to keep doing this every year.”

With Earth Day approaching this Wednesday, and an increase in public awareness regarding environmental issues, “Trees for TDs” seemed like the ideal project, said Sean Giblin, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore and Sigma Pi ACE Chair.

Giblin said that he was drawn to join the fraternity because of the potential to do something big in greek life.

“There’s a lot of risk involved in (coordinating large events like this), but there’s also a lot of reward in that risk,” he said.

“Trees for TDs” was funded in part by the Inter Fraternity Council and the Alumni Association," he said. The trees were purchased from Barton Nursery, located in Edison.

Unlike Busch campus, Cook campus and Douglass campus, which boast more open spaces, the College Avenue campus is predominantly filled with buildings, Giblin said. The fraternity’s aim to support urban forestry is very in line with that of Shiloh’s Community Gardens.

“You want to shine a light on (community gardens) and let people know (they are) there. That way they’d be motivated to start their own garden or contribute to this one,” he said. “It will set off a chain reaction.”

Volunteers that were working on the garden were comprised of both Rutgers students and New Brunswick residents.

Community member, Danica Dugger, said she got involved in the project when she had often bicycled past the garden and became interested in contributing to the garden. She then reached out to Elijah’s Promise.

Shiloh Community Gardens is still small and relatively new, but Elijah’s Promise is in the midst of expanding it, said Brianna Hall, co-manager of Shiloh Community Gardens. They only have 42 beds right now, but they are hoping to add more over the summer.

Since the garden did not have space for all 42 trees this year, Elijah's Promise contacted Raíces Cultural Center and Unity Square Garden, where the fraternity volunteers will also be planting trees, she said.

“(The fraternity) is being very generous by giving back to the community,” Hall said. “I think we at Elijah’s Promise also believe the same thing, and so it was just this conglomeration of people who are passionate about people.”

"Trees for TDs" is not the only philanthropic event that Sigma Pi hosts, according to their website. In the past they have renovated a dilapidated playground for Jameson Psychology Child Study Center Preschool and hosted an appreciation night for dining hall staff members.

In light of the recent campus probation, service events such as “Trees for TDs” are an important way to show the Rutgers community what being greek is really all about, Donovan said.

“I’m understanding of (the social probation decision),” he said. “They wanted us to step back a bit and reflect on what it really means for us to all be greeks and what we really should be doing to give back to the community.”

Francesca Falzon

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