Archive for Saturday, April 24, 2010

TKE fraternity members move outside their comfort zone

Weekend spent in makeshift shelter offers perspective on homeless plight

Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity members, from left, Ryan Ebeling, Overland Park sophomore, John McNeely, Overland Park junior, Joe Winters, Frederick, Md., junior and Austin Grasser, Overland Park sophomore, obscured, work to construct a living quarters made of cardboard boxes Friday outside the Clinton Parkway Hy-Vee. Members of the fraternity plan to live in the box structures for 48 hours, until noon on Sunday, as a part of the “TKE in a Box” charity fundraiser. The fraternity is collecting canned goods to be distributed to ECKAN and monetary donations for the Lawrence Community Shelter.

Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity members, from left, Ryan Ebeling, Overland Park sophomore, John McNeely, Overland Park junior, Joe Winters, Frederick, Md., junior and Austin Grasser, Overland Park sophomore, obscured, work to construct a living quarters made of cardboard boxes Friday outside the Clinton Parkway Hy-Vee. Members of the fraternity plan to live in the box structures for 48 hours, until noon on Sunday, as a part of the “TKE in a Box” charity fundraiser. The fraternity is collecting canned goods to be distributed to ECKAN and monetary donations for the Lawrence Community Shelter.

April 24, 2010


As members of the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity chapter set up their cardboard shelter for the weekend, they knew what they were getting into.

Even with the threat of storms Friday night, the Kansas University chapter members were hoping to identify in some small part with the city’s homeless population — at least for 48 consecutive hours this weekend.

“It’s one of those harsh realities that those people have to be out there in the bad conditions regardless, so we’re going to stay regardless of what happens,” said Kris Nielsen, the TKE chapter’s community service organizer.

Fraternity brothers live in a box

Members of the TKE fraternity on campus will live in a box structure outside Hy-Vee on Clinton Parkway to raise money and food for those in need. Enlarge video

About 20 chapter members will work in shifts and stay in their cardboard shelter just outside the Hy-Vee at 3504 Clinton Parkway until Sunday afternoon. The group will be collecting canned items for local food pantries and donations for the Lawrence Community Shelter.

Nielsen, a former chapter president and Leawood senior, said it will be the third consecutive semester for the event. Members were hoping to surpass the 1,500 cans of food and the more than $300 they collected last semester.

Nielsen said chapter members know that many among the city’s homeless population live in harsher conditions, but TKE members hoped to identify somewhat with the experience as they try to provide assistance.

“We’re really getting the idea of what it’s like to be on the side and be a little neglected and not be treated the same as everyone else,” he said.


Soap 7 years, 11 months ago

pshh.. good cause, but really?? is that necessary?? that's not what being homeless is like.. that's closer to camping.. come kick it with the peeps behind jayhawk food mart if u really wanna identify!!

alive 7 years, 11 months ago

I was so disgusted by the flip flop wearing Frisbee tossing Abercrombie zombies playing music out of their BMW while in front of Hy-Vee I went inside with my son to tell the management that I would be taking my business elsewhere. He agreed that the scene presented by the TKE's was not very thoughtful. I don't understand how blind they can be to how they looked out there having fun while there are real people, children and the elderly with nowhere to go at night. Repugnant. Nice brown nosing story by the LJworld too.

bluebulldog 7 years, 11 months ago

Put your money where your mouth is DONATE to a good cause!

Soap 7 years, 11 months ago

spend a couple nites at the drop-in center..

Soap 7 years, 11 months ago

take part in the "homeless round-up" where every homeless person gets thrown on jail, usually right before major downtown functions like block parties or spring football games.. out of sight, out of mind..

John Hamm 7 years, 11 months ago

Another "don't Bogart that joint" and "pass the bottle" fun night for the frat rats! If any of you think this is in anyway similar to being homeless or living on the streets of Lawrence - well, "you got another think comin'.

Jason Bailey 7 years, 11 months ago

If you can't go Greek, you gotta go TKE. If you can't go TKE, you gotta go home.

Miles Nease 7 years, 11 months ago

So, Jason. I take it that you went home?

thatonedude 7 years, 11 months ago

Seriously, they're trying to do something good. Can you suspend the cynicism just for a bit and allow them that?

ashmole 7 years, 11 months ago

This is the kind of stunt that the frat boys love. They get in the newspaper and look caring. The rest of the year they live like pigs and are terrible neighbors - trash everywhere, never shoveling their sidewalks in the winter, loud parties. I just wish they would be good citizens on a daily basis, rather than thinking that photogenic acts of charity make up somehow for being antisocial brats the rest of the time.

Tom McCune 7 years, 11 months ago

...TKE fraternity members move outside their comfort zone...

I thought the story was going to be about how they gave up drinking for a week.....

beatrice 7 years, 11 months ago

I once drew a picture, so I guess I know what it is like to be Picasso.

Just raise money and food if you want to help, but don't go "slumming" temporarily with your buddies and think you are experiencing homelessness. Or if you do, do so for your entire winter break, in another city far from home (Detroit, perhaps?), with no identification. Then get back with us. Sleeping in a box for two nights in a spot where they knew they wouldn't be removed by police is just a little uncomfortable, but it isn't homelessness. These boys always knew they could just walk back to their rooms if they had to.

Next time, they should do what they do best. Hold a kegger with the proceeds going to help the homeless. They will be honest with themselves and will likely raise more money for the cause. I'm sure somebody will wake up having spent the night on an outdoor sofa.

Graczyk 7 years, 11 months ago

What's the problem here? If this kind of thing makes even one of them interested in social activism, or inspires them to take a more active hand in the homeless issue, then the experience has done its job. Of course they won't know exactly what it's like to be homeless. But I'm betting that most of the cynics on this board don't either.

juliemcnee 7 years, 11 months ago

Yes....what is it that you cynical comment writers have ever done to help anyone else? Maybe look at yourself before saying nasty things about young people trying to help others. Remember he who casts the first stone.................

mom_of_three 7 years, 11 months ago

ah, julie, but they are partly right. How much is this trying to help their public image, and how much is it to help the homeless? Last year, they collected $300. They probably spend more than that on beer for a party.
I applaud their effort to help, but I am still a realist.

broadpaw 7 years, 11 months ago

You hit it dead on, here. Positive public image, that's what TKE wants. Many students (and non-students, too) volunteer at community shelters to actually work with the less fortunate, serving them hot food and sharing real conversations with them. They might not donate a single dollar but they can still do something really enriching. I was in line behind some greek types in a liquor store when they purchased over $1000 of liquor for a weekend party: a completely fleeting and selfish chance to act stupid together. So I say the cynicism is completely valid when folks like these guys have plenty of money and time to provide better contributions than this slop that gets them in the paper for playing frisbee in a parking lot.

localconcern 7 years, 5 months ago

It is truly sad to see that many people hold such prejudicial stereotypes of fraternity members, especially in this comment. I guess all seemingly college-age students that walk in to a liquor store are automatically Greek and that this automatically makes them a terrible person. These men were trying to do something good for their community, and yes they probably didn't experience the homeless lifestyle, but they were still out there. The fact that people feel the need to verbally attack these men for trying to do a good deed is disgusting. If anyone really looked in to this TKE is one of the largest fraternity organizations in the United States. I really doubt they would do something like this just to get into the paper of a town of less than 125,000 in Kansas. The greek communities of schools such as the University of Kansas and Kansas State University perform countless philanthropy events throughout the year that benefit their communities in many ways, and to attack them for doing so is just childish and seems like the action of a true pessimist.

Soap 7 years, 11 months ago

for the record, i have been homeless in lawrence on two separate occasions, the longest for a few months.. to me, this IS a mockery.. very stereotypical, and adds to the stereotype.. it's 2010.. get a clue!! like i said, i'm all for the cause, but do it in a more compassionate way..

bluebulldog 7 years, 11 months ago

These kids will never be homeless, hopefully. They are going to college for this very reason and most hold part time jobs. They will be our next leaders!!

beatrice 7 years, 11 months ago

Rich kids pretending to be homeless. That is the problem. It is the whole "experiencing homelessness" that bothers me, because they aren't even close. You can't walk in someone elses shoes, and you can't get a feel for the desperation and helplessness of homelessness by sleeping outside for two nights. It just makes it all seem so quaint. It is in the same ballpark as Marie Antoinette's peasant village on the grounds of Versaille, where she could play poor peasant girl with her friends.

Don't pretend to be something you are not. If they were raising money for the blind, would they walk around for two days with their eyes covered? Would they speak with a stutter if speach impediments were the cause? They should stick with what they do best, and raise money and awareness that way. Not saying that the Greek systems doesn't raise millions around the country, but I do question this manner of raising money.

Nathan Anderson 7 years, 11 months ago

It wasn't even 2 nights. They did it in 2-hour shifts. I've volunteered at the Jubilee Cafe. I think it's great that the college kids volunteer, but I wish more would do it for the right reasons. At the Cafe, I saw very little interaction between the volunteers and those we were serving. For this and many other reasons, it just seemed to be a resume padding exercise. I get the same feeling from this article.

bluebulldog 7 years, 11 months ago

These boys should be applauded for their efforts. Finally, we have some young people who are thinking about some one besides them selves. You cynics missed the point..... that this is a CHAIRTY FUND RAISER. Get out side your boxes and go donate. Spread the wealth. Make this a community effort.

bblbfolks 7 years, 11 months ago

WOW! Some of you people are real jerks! At least these guys are TRYING to do something for the homeless problem there. What are YOU doing? Not much I would wager. And yes, we had the saying "If you can't go Greek, go TKE" when I was in college a few decades ago. But once again, I say these guys are taking community service seriously. I may not live in Lawrenece...never did, I went to a different school. But I read the LJWorld stuff, and am aware of the problem in your city with homelessness. So if you can't stop by and make a donation to the cause, the least you can do is to keep your hate filled statements to yourselves.

mom_of_three 7 years, 11 months ago

This is a commentary, and people will say things you don't like. GEt over it. I, too, am cynical. Hear some of the weekend goals of this very same kids and then you would be, too. How much to they spend on parties, on fun, on whatever, and I bet it makes that $300 collected last year look pretty puny.
Charity isn't one day a year, it's every day. When they start practicing that, let me know.

bluebulldog 7 years, 11 months ago

These same kids also donate their time to homeless shelters serving food and helping others. What do you do mom-of-three? Who do you help everyday? Will your three kids be givers or takers? Hopefully, you can send them to college.

Frank A Janzen 7 years, 11 months ago

"About 20 chapter members WILL WORK IN SHIFTS and stay in their cardboard shelter just outside the Hy-Vee at 3504 Clinton Parkway until Sunday afternoon." Why don't some of you spend the whole 48 hours the "homeless" situation???!!! How long is each shift?? What, 2 or 3 hours? 6, 7, 8, hours??? Then go home to a hot bath and a meal? Why not "walk the walk," not just "talk the talk."?

jayhawkblue 7 years, 11 months ago

I went by the Hy-Vee and saw the TKE's raising $$ and collecting canned goods for the homeless of Lawrence. Way to go guys, awfully proud of you.

mazdakc 7 years, 11 months ago

This is Kris Nielsen, the same one featured in the article. I am writing this on my phone, "from the box" so to speak. To clarify, we in no way argue that our box, complete with a stereo and folding chairs, is in any attempt a way to recreate the actual circumstances that a homeless person would undergo in their situation. However, we are trying to bring a message to the suburban area of Lawrence that there are people who have to sleep outside on the pavement every night. We have also currently raised closed to 500 canned food items for the E-Kan food pantry, and over $200 for the Lawrence Community Shelter. We still have 18 hours to go, so please come help us. We do this event every semester for the last year and a half, in addition to TKE for Troops, our care package drive for troops overseas. We aren't a big Greek house with huge parties and mischief making, just 20 guys living in apartments around campus that want to get more from college than a degree.

d_prowess 7 years, 11 months ago

I will say that I respect this effort a lot more after the above comments by Kris. And not only because of what he said, but just the fact he is willing to defend the project. When it comes to charity, a little can go a long way, so nice job. As for those that think this is insulting to homeless folks, you don't need to accept their money or food.

SofaKing 7 years, 11 months ago

I wish they would go around Lawrence with trash bags and clean up all the blue and red beer cups, beer bottles, beer cans, and trash they have thrown out their windows or tossed onto someone else's lawn.

yankeevet 7 years, 11 months ago

The army needs these educated future privates for the Afgan war................

Soap 7 years, 11 months ago

i think more than anything, a homeless person wants what any person wants, and that's a little dignity and respect.. that goes a lot further than canned goods.. this is neither dignified or respectful..

Ronda Miller 7 years, 11 months ago

Some of you are making false statements about these young men. Not one of them has a BMW and my son and I share a 1997 Buick that you can hear rattling whether we're coming or going.

My son has done service at the drop in shelter four years ago and we have continued assisting them since.

I know many of these young men - they are good men with the desire to assist others who may have had tough breaks on life's paths.

Try sleeping outside yourself for a night or two - homelessness is a different experience for each person. For anyone to state that none of these young men will become homeless is the biggest falicy of all. Anyone, for a number of reasons, can become homeless. It can be caused by mental illness, disabilities, economic conditions, etc.

The attitudes expressed about these young men who are choosing to spend few hours off from busy schedules of work, school, homework are as shameful as comments about homeless people.

In addition, homeless people can and do laugh, cry, play games, including frisbee, besides many other human functions that your narrow mindsets seem to comprehend.

Thanks to these young people the families, including young children and disabled, will have some additional food sources. What have YOU done for another besides teaching your son to put othe's down.

Be proud of that!

Jhawker190 7 years, 11 months ago

You make a point. However at the same time I find it unfair you generalize all of us. As a TKE I am the first one in my family to go to college. I didn't join a fraternity for the "parties". Before I came to KU I threw frat boys under the bus just like most of you seem to. Maybe you should come and talk to us before you decide what are motives for doing this are. If you have a problem with the way were doing it that's fine too. We never claimed that our situation was the same as the hardships a person who's actually homeless would face. I realize how fortunate I am and we do this just to help. Maybe instead of damning us for the way we do it you can just help the cause. Everything helps.

Armored_One 7 years, 11 months ago

Managed to choke down reading through all of this, but a few things did stick out far enough to merit a couple of chuckles.

First and foremost, does it matter if these kids from TKE are there for 20 minutes or 20 months? Haven't heard from anyone here offering to JOIN them, merely endorse or slam their efforts. While it is all well and good to support others in their efforts, and fairly disgusting to slam them for the efforts, actually joining them would show much more character than either of the previous options that have been taken.

Me? I'd volunteer but then there would be no one to keep an eye on my 5 year old daughter. In lieu of that, I will be donating. If one of the TKE members would leave message as to what they would prefer to get in the way of donations, I'll get it covered, one way or another.

I've been homeless more than once, in several states. Sometimes for a few weeks, and once for more than a year.

Respect and dignity are both fine concepts, but neither will keep you warm or fed, soap. Both are concepts that are earned, not doled out like so many free t-shirts at a local football game. They are also concepts that are created frm the inside out. Demonstrate that you deserve respect and you will eventually have it given to you. Conduct yourself with some sense of dignity, and those that you are in contact with on a regular basis will accept it and gasp respect you for it.

I never once demanded respect from anyone, nor will I ever demand it. I know my own self worth, and I respect myself. I carry myself with dignity because of my abilities, not because some fool in a suit passed a law saying that everyone else has to think I have it.

Yes, the homeless are human and should be treated as such, but those that insist on wallowing in their misery, exaccerbate their situation and revel in their "freedom" are little more than leeches. Those that are there against their will but are striving to improve their situation appropriately, not just beg for a hand out, are worth my energy and time.

As I said, though, if TKE will leave a message as to what types of canned foods they are looking to get as donations, I will do my damnedest to get that shopping list filled.

independant1 7 years, 11 months ago

Frats in general, especially TKEs do have rep for certain spirtual, er spirits, laced extracurricular activities. Membership is a social thing and voluntary.

So what would one expect in this forum? I expected more amusing posts. The good posts are above April 24, 2010 at 9:57 a.m. (newell_post is da best).

Does anybody know the TKE secret handshake?

Soap 7 years, 11 months ago

i have a better idea.. every tke member pick a homeless person and share their home with them.. problem solved.. lol @ whoever gets simon!!

paynej10 7 years, 11 months ago

This is a member of TKE from the box right now. Any type of canned food will work just fine armored one! Thanks for your support! We will be here till noon today, so come and help us out if you can.

mazdakc 7 years, 11 months ago

TKE would like to thank everyone that came out and supported us this weekend. Upon final count, we raised 280.00 in cash donations for the Lawrence Community Shelter and approximately 1000 canned food items for the EcKan food pantry. We completed 48 hours in the box and look forward to doing it again in the fall. Also, we will be doing TKE for Troops when school starts up again, where we will raise money to build care packages for troops overseas. Visit for more information.

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