Chapter Highlight: Kappa Alpha

When it comes to programming, KON’s Kappa Alpha chapter can teach us all a thing or two. Recently I spoke with Karen E. From MS, RD, LD, who is the Chapter Advisor of Kappa Alpha at Northwest Missouri State University, School of Health Science and Wellness about the programming detailed in their Chapter B report. In reading over their programming report to the national office, I was caught by the following line:

“30th year of nut sales completed offering three scholarships for members.”

30 years of nut sales? That’s a lot of nuts. I called Karen to ask her about it. She laughed, “nut sales have been going on since 1990 and were run by then adviser, Beth Goudge. Beth was the adviser for 23 years. She was remarkable. We have an annual fundraising event selling nuts that we source through a small local business about two hours outside of town. The chapter gets a percent of what we sell. This way we’re supporting local businesses and Missouri agriculture. It also lets us focus on health because our program is dietetics. We even sold during COVID. We had stipulations on who you could work with and how you could reach out, but we did it.”

How did they do that? Each year when we elect officers we also elect someone as chair of the nut committee. They join with two other members who were voted into the nut committee. Together the nut committee meets with the KON exec team and advisor to decide on which of the many nuts and snacks we will sell that year and the price we will sell them for. The nut committee creates an order form and descriptions to market the products. They also decide on how many pounds each member is supposed to sell. At a meeting in early October, each member is given their order form in a sheet protector, and a description sheet for each item. Each member is asked to sell at least 20 pounds of nut products to be considered an active member. The due date is decided upon, usually the last day of October. A Nut Committee member and the treasurer or president count all the nut orders and money. The total order is given to the chapter adviser who places the order with the local nut company. The total order is received by mid-November. Then the nut committee members verify we received every item ordered and place each nut order in a paper bag for members to pick up. Each member signs that their order is correct and distributes the orders to their customers before Thanksgiving.

The results speak for themselves. Their largest sale to date was 1,020 pounds of nuts under Beth’s reign. That wasn’t a one-time anomaly though, a couple of semesters ago they had over 900 pounds to distribute. Most years, they raise between $1,500 to $2,000, and of that amount, $900-$1,000 goes into three scholarships for active committee participants that are given out in the fall.

Kappa Alpha’s 2019-2020 Meetings

  • September 2019: KON Scavenger Hunt
  • October 2019: Pumpkin Painting Contest
  • November 2019: Philanthropy event planning
  • December 2019: Brunch & Yoga – Omelet station and restorative yoga with Kamryn
  • January 2020: No meeting due to winter break
  • February 2020: Philanthropy Event – (inspiration cards/basket)
  • March 2020: Senior Etiquette Presentation and bullying initiative. (cancelled but planned)

The best part about Kappa Alpha’s programming is that it doesn’t stop there. They have a monthly activity at each of their chapter meetings. At the beginning of the year, each member signs up for a month’s meeting to create appropriate programming. Members usually sign up for more than one month, and often there are 3-4 members to work on each program idea. This way, all the chapter members take turns planning programming for their chapter. They have to select programs that meet one of KON’s ideals of research, leadership, or scholarship. The Vice-President is in charge of programming and makes sure things are on track. Karen reports that they try to use some of what the KON national office has on the website, but also delves into things the members like to make it interesting for them. For example, one of their students teaches yoga at the fitness center. To take advantage of that skill, they made a yoga event for the last month before the winter holidays. This provided an activity that would give back to the members.

One of their lessons learned is to go with the flow, and that not all projects work out. In November, Kappa Alpha was working with another association on their floor to hold a bake sale to raise money to fight food insecurity Backpack Buddies, a local program for food-insecure youth. Unfortunately, the school athletic director said selling cookies at the event would interfere with the Northwest Aramark food contract, and the program didn’t materialize. Despite the disappointment, Karen was positive about the experience. She noted that they had gotten quite far along in planning, “we had already built the marketing and event plan, and had made a quite a bit of progress. We learned a lot from the experience.”

Without their nut sales or bake sale, they were coming up short on a philanthropic activity. Then they learned about a fellow college student Bearcat who had brain surgery. The procedure hadn’t gone as hoped, and the patient was struggling at a local rehabilitation facility. Kappa Alpha used their funds to make a “basket of hope and happiness.” We got her inspirational cards and made a gift basket. She was having trouble reading so we got appropriate books, writing and drawing things, snacks, and socks for her feet. We sent notes too just to say we’re thinking of you and praying for you.

With all of this programming, it’s easy to assume Kappa Alpha is a large chapter. But they have just 11 members, including six initiates.

Karen left us with words of wisdom. “Working with the students is fun. It has taken me until the last couple of years to learn to step back and let them lead and plan, by choosing the activities and working out the monthly programming. It is a great learning opportunity for them, and they enjoy the interaction.” What’s Karen’s favorite kind of nut? Almond. She notes though that the most popular option for the students is dark chocolate-covered coffee beans. The word is that they’re good for finals!

Chapter Highlight: Kappa Alpha Tau

We are all faced with the need for social distancing for safety during the current pandemic. But that hasn’t deterred KON’s Kappa Alpha Tau chapter at Bradley University in their Department of Family & Consumer Sciences. For their program activity for the year, they conducted an “Adopt a Grandparent” activity where students were able to write to nursing home residents during the pandemic when residents needed social interaction.

Megan Vallas, President of Kappa Alpha Tau at the time, organized the project. She said “we were going to do the national initiative right after spring break. We talked about fundraising, but the options we had looked at before wouldn’t work because of social distancing. It would even be too hard to do a food drive because our students aren’t on campus. We didn’t know what to do. Then our chapter adviser Rachel Vollmer saw an article about people being pen pals with nursing home residents. Many of these residents are coping with loneliness as they’re unable to have visitors. She thought it was a good idea, so she shared it with me. I liked it too. We brought it to the executive board during our next Zoom meeting, and decided it was something we wanted to do with local Peoria nursing homes.”

But they didn’t just pick up their pens and start writing. First, Megan picked up her phone to find a local nursing home that was willing. Calling the first few they actually struck out. Nursing homes are a bit overwhelmed right now and it wasn’t that easy to find the activities director. But after they reached out to three or four they found one who was agreeable and supported their outreach efforts.

Then came the next hurdle. Kappa Alpha Tau suggested improving on the letter concept by calling, but the nursing home pointed out that many of their residents are hard of hearing. They liked the option of letters, which would also mean a resident could have something tangible. Residents could also go back and read the letter again if they wanted.

They agreed on letter writing, and the nursing home activities director first asked residents if they were interested. Seven residents at the facility said they would like a pen pal. But the activities director changed course, deciding that some residents might change their minds. They said to send as many letters as the KON members wanted: the activities director would distribute them. Because students are at home, they were to mail their letters directly to the nursing home. This made more sense for cost and speed than mailing them to another KON member to bundle the letters and mail them together.

In the end, 10-15 KON members participated and sent letters to the address at the nursing home. Some KON participants sent more than one letter – to correspond with more than one resident.

The hope was for ongoing correspondence. Megan notes that she didn’t personally get any letters back, but she knows someone else did. This KON member responded again, perhaps being the start of a true pen-pal friendship. Regardless of how many other residents responded, it is clear that KON’s Kappa Alpha Tau put a smile on the faces of some local nursing home residents. Well done Kappa Alpha Tau! We are proud of your community outreach and applaud your mindset of innovation as an outstanding display of leadership.

Member Highlight: Amber Roth, Ph.D., CFCS

Amber is KON’s new President of the Board of Directors. She is the chapter adviser for the Kappa Beta Xi chapter at Carson-Newman University. I was able to spend some time with her recently for an interview to get to know her better. Here are some bits from that discussion.

Q: Can you tell me about your career?

A: I was just awarded tenure this March, after my 7th year at Carson-Newman. I wanted to find ways to grow leadership in Family and Consumer Sciences and felt that leadership in KON was a good way to do that.

AAFCS Annual Conference from L to R: Kathleen O’Rourke, Amber Roth, Kitty Coffey, Heather Whaley, and Sally Fortenberry

Q:   How did you become involved with KON?

A:   When I joined the faculty at Carson-Newman, one of the expectations was that I become the adviser of their KON chapter. Diana Carroll was the previous adviser. She was a founding member of Kappa Beta Xi in 1968 and served as the chapter advisor for more than 30 years. She was very involved, and was given several awards, and served as KON president at least once. You could say our chapter has a long and proud history of service.

I was paired as a co-advisor with Kitty Coffey the first year and took over as full advisor after that. Kitty is a legacy as well in her own right. We’re a small chapter; we don’t have more than 15 or 20 students at a time, but our chapter has won multiple KON Chapter of Excellence Awards. Since KON started the program in 1980 we’ve won 26 of these awards. We’re very proud of that.

With Kitty’s encouragement and Diana’s mentorship, I had big shoes to fill. I didn’t want to let either of them down, so I got involved. I became a KON member in the fall of 2014 and joined the Board of Directors in the summer of 2017.

Kappa Beta Xi’s wall of awards, featuring their Chapter of Excellence Awards and Undergraduate Research Award

Q:  What benefits have you gotten out of your membership with KON?

A:   One big benefit as I noted was in deepening my relationship with Kitty and Diana.

I also love working with the best of our Family and Consumer Science students. They all are passionate about what they do, they have excellent GPAs, and working with them is very rewarding as an adviser. Sometimes it’s a hard sell to a student on financial aid and without a lot of discretionary income to convince them that the membership fee and dues are worth the expense to join. One of the benefits of membership for students is opportunities for leadership experience, not only at the chapter level but also nationally. Since I became the advisor of Kappa Beta Xi, none of our chapter members have served on the national board, but I am hopeful that a future member will eventually feel led to run for a student board member position, especially as the National Office and Executive Board continue to offer value-added services and experiences for all KON members.

Amber safely connects with students during office hours.

Q: Tell me about your service with KON. What are you most proud of?

A: I’m proud of where KON is now compared to where it was when I started on the Board of Directors in 2017. We keep saying we’re in transition, and we’re not there yet. That is true. But we are making progress and I feel that I’m making a difference. It’s very exciting. I hope that by the end of my tenure as president, I’ll be able to pass it on feeling happy and proud of where we are and that I’m passing on something in good shape for the next person to take the next step to help KON grow.

Amber at Nashville Fashion Week 2019, volunteering behind the scenes with her fashion students.

Q: What do you like to do in your spare time? Hobbies?

A: I like to sew! What can I say, I’m a textiles person. When I’m allowed to, I also like to travel overseas. The British Isles are my favorite place to travel to. My mom is on a genealogy kick and we’ve recently been able to travel to connect with some family history in Northern Ireland and England.