Big kids helping little kids

UCLA’s Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity volunteers at Southern California’s Bessie Pregerson Child Development Center.

By Dawn Wright

It’s been said that a man never stands taller than when he stoops to help a child. Recently, the men of UCLA’s Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity proved that adage and dispelled the preconception of self-centered “Greek life.”

The voices of these college “kids” commingled with those of tiny tots at Southern California’s Bessie Pregerson Child Development Center—a state-of-the-art preschool program supporting the Westwood Transitional Village, a residential housing program for homeless families. It was “Community Service Day” for Alpha Epsilon Pi—an international Jewish fraternity—and 10 representatives took the opportunity to spend a couple of hours with the children.

“People hold certain stereotypes against the Greek community, so we really try to be well-rounded academically, as well as give back to the community,” said Josh Canter, UCLA Alpha Epsilon Pi vice president.

Within minutes of arriving, they were outside with the children, playing hide-and-go-seek, tag and basketball, racing around on tricycles and climbing the jungle gym. During lunch, each volunteer took a seat in the tiny toddler chairs to continue talking with the children.

The Bessie Pregerson Child Development Center has a special place in the heart of one Alpha Epsilon Pi who is the great-grandson of the center’s namesake. This was the fraternity’s second trip to the property. Last time, they volunteered at neighboring Westwood Transitional Village. The fraternity strives to volunteer quarterly.

Volunteers are a mainstay at the center, joining qualified child care staff in providing a nurturing and safe environment for the children, many of whom have special needs, including developmental delays due to disintegration of the family unit, homelessness or abuse.

The center also works with Jump Start—a work-study program at UCLA—as well as with local elementary schools, which provide pen pals for the children in addition to putting on plays.

The center is always in need of volunteers for recreation activities and educators who can teach life skills. To get involved, call 1-310-477-2772.


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