When it comes to service, we can all take a minute to appreciate the efforts of KON Kappa Chi, at Immaculata University. The Chapter Adviser there is Sister Denise Mollica, and I reached out to her to learn more about her chapter’s service efforts this year.

Their chapter meetings tend to focus on planning and preparation for their service initiatives. This year, Kappa Chi has completed four interesting projects to serve their community. The service projects include Night in Italy and Hearty Healthy Dinner, Cookies for Camilla, Pillows for Cancer, and a Fashion Show. I wanted to learn more about the details.

Night in Italy and Heart Healthy Dinner are two different events but serving essentially the same meal. The Night in Italy was held in October, and Heart Healthy Dinner in February. The events educate the community in eating healthy by serving a nutritious dinner. Kappa Chi has been doing some variation of this meal for ten years. It’s one way to get students together, while including the larger community – students, faculty, staff, security, maintenance, etc. Over the years they’ve partnered with the FCS Club, the Fashion Group, the Student Dietetics Association, and the Nursing Club.

The dinners have evolved a bit. For several years they charged $5 a person and donated the proceeds to a charity – The John Maxwell Home Economics Center in Haiti. But then it was noted that some students, possibly many students, may not have $5. Kappa Chi didn’t give up on their dinners; rather, they applied for and received funds from their school’s Student Development and Engagement Department.  Once the Center was completed, instead of asking for a $5 donation, they asked if the dinner guests would bring a canned good or pantry item which they donated to IU Cares – the food cupboard on campus for students who need assistance with food supplies.

How many diners show up? Sister Mollica says “Before COVID, we had approximately 100 people dining with us. In October 2021 – the first event after COVID, we were down to 30; by February 2022, we were back up to 60 and we are planning on 75 for the fall.” Kappa Chi holds the meal in their Food Science and Clothing Construction labs. KON students convert the clothing lab into a dining room, by decorating the cabinets with posters that talk about the importance of being heart healthy. They use red and white check tablecloths and play Italian music.  Guests are served from the Food Science Lab across the hall.

What did they serve? Diners have a choice of white or wheat spaghetti, turkey meatballs, garden salad, bread with oil and garlic, water, lemonade, or iced tea, and black bean brownies for dessert.

If you’re stuck on the black bean brownies, so was I. Sister Mollica says that they are easy to make, and the guests are not aware of what they are unless they are told.  To prepare the brownies: pour the contents of regular brownie mix (I use the triple chocolate mix with pieces of chocolate) in a mixing bowl.  Drain the liquid from a 15.5 oz. can of black beans and pour the beans into a blender.  Add a can of water to the beans and liquify the contents.  Add this mixture to the ingredients in the bowl and mix until blended.  Then bake according to the directions on the package.   Sister Mollica says, “I try to use the triple chocolate brownie mix because the chocolate disguises the black beans, and you really can’t taste them.”

Cookies for Camilla – Camilla Hall Nursing Home is a 200-bed convent nursing home and healthcare center. Sister Mollica bakes cookies at Camilla Hall every Saturday. During the year they’re often served at funerals and other events, but Christmas time is special.

During the holiday season, she sets up two days when KON members sign up to assist with cookie preparation. Some of the members bring a friend or a partner. Usually, she gets about six helpers a day. Sister Mollica prepares the dough ahead of time, and the students help with panning out the dough and baking the cookies. Some of those cookies are given to her student helpers -she puts three of each type of cookie in a plastic bag for students to take home. The rest are served to the residents at holiday events, bringing a smile and some Christmas spirit to them.

How many cookies are we talking about? Each batch of dough makes about 15 trays of 35, so around 525 cookies. They usually bake three kinds each day (that’s 1,575 cookies per day if you’re counting). They make coconut macaroons, ginger snaps, snickerdoodles, chocolate chips, thumbprints, and sugar cookies. Sister Mollica notes that she makes sure to select ones that are nut free in case of possible nut-allergies. She does make cookies with nuts, but only does so by herself so that she can personally ensure that there’s no contamination.

Pillows for Cancer – “One of our directors had a mastectomy some years ago. And after she went in for surgery, she was given a special pillow. The shape is just right to hug. You know how after you’ve had surgery you just hug it because it helps the pain go away.” Sister Mollica has her Kappa Omicron Nu students make pillows to give to patients facing cancer treatment and other major surgery.

In November Sister Mollica and the KON students make approximately 10-15 pillows.  Using donated fleece fabric, both leftovers from projects with fashion students and other fabric donations, they cut and sew pillows of different styles and stuff them with poly-fil. She started out with a heart shape and moved on to the mastectomy armpit pillow shape.  The university logo is sewn on to the pillows to remind the patients that someone is thinking of them. After the pillows are completed, the students bring them to the director who distributes the pillows to organizations such as the HERS Foundation: Hysterectomy Alternatives and Aftereffects, and breast cancer and heart patients at a local hospital.

They don’t exclusively give pillows only to these organizations though. The point of making the pillows is to give to those in need including a student’s mother who was having constructive surgery. “If anyone learns about someone who is having surgery, we make sure to get one to them.”

Fashion Show: At Immaculata University, Sister Mollica and her KON chapter support activities in both the fashion and nutrition programs.  One of the classes for fashion students is Marketing Principles for Fashion with a capstone project of an annual fashion show. Students must plan all the components of a fashion show: deciding the theme, making invitations, getting models, getting dresses, deciding the cost of admission, how to register for the event, and contacting high schools asking for volunteers to model or help. This year, they had two outside vendors – a local clothing designer, and a recently graduated student who made jewelry for sale.

Tickets were $25, for adults and $10 for students, although some students took advantage of the $5 flash sale that showed the students how discounts work. Nearly all the student fashions used re-purposed or upcycled fabric, making the garments completely sustainable.

For the big event Sister Mollica and the KON volunteers took care of the food. They purchased finger sandwiches and prepped fresh fruit and vegetables from the dining services. The students arranged the fruit and veggies onto trays and Sister Mollica added some trays of homemade cookies. Her students then assisted behind the scenes, arriving as early as 10:00 AM to get decorations and details in place. Guests arrived at 6:00, and the fashion show began at 6:45 PM.  The event went well, and financially they broke out even or possibly a little ahead.  That is where the charitable component comes in.

After the show, dresses that are donated by the shops and/or designers or were lightly used were offered to students in need. IU let counselors of local high schools know of the event and invited their students to try on the dresses and take one with them.

Extra dresses are sold for $10 to students, faculty, and staff with the proceeds going to the IU Cares cupboard. After that, the remaining dresses were donated to local high schools hold a gown exchange event.

Their service projects this year were all successful and they will continue with these projects next year. In addition, they’re considering reading stories related to nutrition to one or two local elementary schools and are looking to partner with the charitable organization Rise Against Hunger to help fill food packets for those less fortunate. Well done Kappa Chi at Immaculata University!

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