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Tri-Council collaborates with TOPSS

The Interfraternity Council (IFC), National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) and Pan-Hellenic Association are teaming up with Talawanda-Oxford Pantry and Social Services (TOPSS) to raise $200,000 over the next three years for construction costs of a new building and the revamping of the food pantry's services.

TOPSS, formerly named the Oxford Community Choice Pantry, is constructing a new building on College Corner Pike.

TOPSS' goals under its new name include continuing to serve as a food pantry for Oxford while implementing a nutrition and health curriculum. TOPSS will also offer after-school programs with gardening, compost and exercise classes.

"About 11 percent of the population of Butler County experiences food insecurity," said Ann Fuehrer, secretary of the TOPSS executive board.

Food insecurity means not having consistent access to nutritious foods. An estimated 1000 students in the Talawanda school district qualify for free or reduced lunch.

Fuehrer approached the Cliff Alexander Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life in January and presented the Tri-Council with the partnership opportunity.

"[She] informed us of all the changes they were trying to make, such as beautifying the building and serving a wider audience in Oxford," said Jake McCorkle, vice president of community service and philanthropy in IFC and a member of Delta Chi.

The Tri-Council will help with construction and financial efforts and will continue to volunteer time and knowledge to patrons when the business is running.

"[They are] building on a commitment they already have," Fuehrer said. "Now it'll be more of a long-term investment in the community."

One of the five pillars of Greek life is service and philanthropy. The Tri-Council members accepted Fuehrer's idea to further their community service involvement.

"We were all very excited to jump at the opportunity [to get involved]," said Jermaine Thomas, president of NPHC and a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. "It's important to build a partnership not only as a Tri-Council, but also with Oxford as a whole."

Claire Drew, vice president of service and philanthropy in Pan-Hellenic and a member of Delta Delta Delta sorority, agreed.

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"Some of our students use it. This isn't just for Oxford, but [also] for Miami University," Drew said. "I think the reason this is a Tri-Council effort is because we all saw someone local approach us and say [they needed] help with this. This was a great way for us to step up and serve our Oxford community."

The Tri-Council has planned a 5k run for the 2019 Miami Family Weekend in the fall where proceeds will go to TOPSS' efforts.

"[Getting involved with] TOPSS creates a sense that everybody in the community is working toward one thing," Thomas said. "It becomes less of, 'I'm NPHC, and they're IFC or Pan-Hellenic,' and more of, 'We're all Greek.'"