MSU fraternity partners with community for river cleanup

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The Michigan Waterway Stewards and Delta Sigma Phi fraternity after their day cleaning up the Red Cedar River.

On March 28, the Michigan Waterways Stewards and East Lansing Rotary Club partnered with Michigan State’s Delta Sigma Phi to host a Red Cedar River cleanup day. With mentoring from the Stewards, the fraternity was able to rally around 30 volunteers to help. 

Mike Stout, founder of the Michigan Waterways Stewards, was notified by the City of East Lansing about the state of the river after citizen complaints. Stout instantly thought of reaching out to the brothers at Delta Sigma Phi, whose house is right on the banks of the river. Stout talked to the Delta Sigma Phi sergeant at arms, Gage Farrow, who was excited to help. 

“Working with Delta Sigma Phi was probably one of the most fun projects we have done,” said Stout. “What made this so pleasant is that we had so many participants and groups join in and get excited about cleaning up the river.”

Farrow gathered about 25 members to clean the stretch of river behind their house on Bogue Street. He was also able to rally volunteers from other groups in East Lansing including the East Lansing Rotary Club and the Friends of the Red Cedar. 

“Greek life gets a bad rap with the parties and messes made. We wanted to change that and show this is the kind of thing we are about,” said Farrow. “I’m hoping that the community sees that actions speak louder than words.” 

Volunteers from Delta Sigma Phi and the East Lansing community worked both together in the water and on the shore.

Peter Dewan, a board member of the East Lansing Rotary Club came out to help with the project. While most of the volunteers were Delta Sigma Phi brothers, the Rotary Club was among the groups that came to help. In a press release, Dewan spoke about the pride he had in the community for stepping forward to take on this project. 

“The East Lansing Rotary was pleased to help. A principal goal of the East Lansing Rotary is to volunteer our time to worthy projects that will benefit our community,” said Dewan. “Environmental stewardship is one of many areas where we contribute volunteer efforts to live up to our motto which is “Service above Self.”

The Michigan Waterways Stewards hope for this encouragement and excitement from other groups in the area, especially the youth. They want to help people find the resources to make a difference and keep their home a clean place. Stout said that once people truly get their hands dirty and see the outcome of their work, they will be encouraged to continue to make their environment a priority. He is there to help them get started. 

“Our mission is to create current and future generations of stewards,” said Stout “The problem is that people see these conditions but don’t have the tools to remedy them.”

Stout founded the stewards in 2022 to protect and care for local and state waterways. He was happy to see how much of an impact the day had on all the volunteers and said many described the day as transformative and remarkable. 

Delta Sigma Phi and the Michigan Waterways Stewards see this day as progress. According to Farrow, the brothers at the fraternity have the core values of brotherhood leadership, and excellence and try to make it the priority of all members. He hopes that this event is not a one-time thing and the fraternity will carry out this project and more like it in the future. 

“This is the kind of thing we are about and we help the community,” said Farrow. “[The members] had a really positive reaction to the river clean up. This is who they wanted to be when joining a fraternity.”

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