Alpha Epsilon Phi
By Bonnie Rubenstein Wunsch, Executive Director, Alpha Epsilon Phi Sorority
Alpha Epsilon Phi (AEPhi) officially announced its partnership with the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation in June 2000, but this was a decision long in the making.
The road to partnership started as far back as 1993 when Joel Goldman, then a Sigma Alpha Mu Fraternity staff member, and I went to lunch one day and discussed the fraternity’s involvement with the growing Pediatric AIDS Foundation, now known as Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. Sigma Alpha Mu had taken the next step of partnering with this foundation based on the ties of alumnus Paul Michael Glaser. Knowing Elizabeth, Paul Glaser’s wife, had been a member of Alpha Epsilon Phi at the University of Wisconsin, the match with AEPhi seemed natural to Joel. Conversations continued and as AEPhi learned more, we discovered that not only was Elizabeth a fellow Phi sister but so was EGPAF co-founder Susie Bernstein Zeegen (from the University of Southern California).
Discussions began with the National Council of AEPhi shortly thereafter, but at the time many were still unclear on the impact and magnitude of the AIDS epidemic and didn’t fully grasp the necessity of EGPAF’s work. However, thanks to the persistence of many sisters and on-going efforts to learn more about the subject, AIDS awareness became AEPhi’s new hands-on community service project. Collegians participated in AIDS walks, provided educational materials on campuses, worked with children’s hospitals and found a myriad of ways to help with the cause.
Yet, the women of AEPhi felt the pull of doing something to help the youngest and most innocent victims of this vicious epidemic: children. They wanted to fundraise and to help with the mission set forth by two of their sisters, Elizabeth and Susie. So, in 2000, the AEPhi National Council voted to make its first gift to EGPAF and announced EGPAF would become one of AEPhi’s national philanthropies. It was a natural fit, everyone wants to help children and what better connection than through an organization started by two fellow AEPhi sisters? Joel and I worked together to pull off a great surprise announcement: then EGPAF spokesman (and heart throb) Scott Wolf joined the AEPhi Summer Leadership Seminar to announce the new partnership and accept, along with Goldman, AEPhi’s first gift to EGPAF. It was a very exciting, meaningful and moving afternoon. After getting over the excitement of having Wolf there, the women were moved when they learned that AEPhi’s new EGPAF liaison, Annie Grodin D’Agostino, was the daughter of one of Elizabeth’s pledge sisters. The bond to EGPAF was, and is, unique, special and second to none!
The sisters of AEPhi have embraced EGPAF as our own ever since that announcement. Our partnership has grown and we continue to be amazed by the many wonderful projects and activities our chapters and colonies have undertaken in the name of EGPAF. To date, AEPhi has contributed over $661,000 and we know there is so much more to come.
Elizabeth once said about her co-founders, “We’re the kind of friends who are in sync that we talk in shorthand and can finish each other’s thoughts. Neither one of us alone could have accomplished as much as we did together. . . “ This is how we often feel about, and talk about, our sorority sisters. It seems we took this thought one step further in reaching out and helping make the mission and goals set forth by our sisters Elizabeth and Susie a reality. We continue to support their work and put our collective best foot forward to help with this worthy cause. We are truly sisters helping sisters and in turn helping the children of the world.