Gamma Phi Hosts Beat the Heat Block Party for Nashville Residents

– By Brother Clint Boyd, Jr.

Nashville, TN – On September 3, 2012 Narrow Gates Community Life Center in conjunction with Gamma Phi Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. hosted a Labor Day Beat the Heat Block Party for residents in a north Nashville neighborhood where the chapter’s fraternity house is located. Children’s attractions included bouncy houses, a water slide, games and custom made balloon sculptures. Spades and dominoes competitions and a Wobble/Electric Slide contest were among the adult attractions.

Fraternity brothers and community volunteers joined forces to provide supervision for the kid’s activities, grill and serve food, register attendees for give-aways and register adults to vote. During the five hour event, twelve people were registered to vote.

Narrow Gates Community Life Center, Inc. was founded in Atlanta, GA by Brother Robert Merritt in 1999. While teaching in the Atlanta Public School System, he was surprised by the number of homeless children he encountered in the school where he taught 5th grade mathematics and language arts. Through a mentoring program called Man in Demand, Merritt, along with others who shared his vision, taught basic life skills to young men. When Merritt moved to Nashville and later became of member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. in 2011, he shared his vision of community uplift with Gamma Phi’s Basileus, Brother Julius Witherspoon.

“Giving back to the community is part of our mission and vision. We believe charity begins at home and what better way to get to know our neighbors, and give back to the community than kick it off with a block party,” said Witherspoon. The highlight of the event was the awarding of give-away prizes including a vacuum cleaner and microwave oven. The last prize went to Ms. Shermear Utley, who was totally overwhelmed when she found out it was a 2002 Mitsubishi Eclipse. “What a total shock and blessing this is! I am a working, single mother of three and this means I no longer have to ride the bus to get my children and me to work and school activities. Praise God,” she said.

Narrow Gates also gave Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. a check for $500 to support Gamma Phi’s Annual Scholarship Fund.

When asked what made him the most proud about the event, Narrow Gates founder Brother Rob Merritt replied, “It is hard to single out one particular aspect of the event that made me proud. I was more humbled than I was proud by the volunteerism from friends and family. It was actually raining that morning when we began and volunteers still showed up. That was a blessing. We could not have done it without them. When I saw members of the community playing, laughing, eating, meeting each other for the first time and fellowshipping together, I was overcome with joy. That’s what it was all about; coming together having a good time in a safe, positive environment. Now, what I was proud of was seeing my brothers of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. doing what we do best – serving.”