04 January 2016

When Tyree Williams was in middle school in Philadelphia, his mom was going through some tough times and she turned to The Salvation Army for his winter coat and holiday assistance. He admits at the time he was too young and naïve to understand the gravity of the situation. Now at the age of 33, he is paying it forward with The Salvation Army.

“I am trying to find my purpose, getting involved in causes that make a difference,” said Tyree.

Tyree and fellow fraternity brothers from an alumni chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha partnered with The Salvation Army to provide underserved youth with a shopping trip at Burlington Coat Factory on Market Street to buy brand new winter coats and accessories. Chapter members and their friends raised more than $3,000 through a Go Fund Me online campaign for what they call “Operation Cold War for Kids.”

“A lot of people I know are dedicated to service and giving back to the community,” Tyree said. “We have a responsibility to do for others.”

The Salvation Army brought families in need from the Pioneer Corps Community Center in the Kensington section of Philadelphia, The West Philadelphia Corps Community Center and the Chester Corps Community Center in Chester, Delaware County.  On November 28, Burlington Coat Factory opened an hour early just for the group - to accommodate the young shoppers and to provide a memorable occasion. The fraternity members served as “personal shoppers,” assisting the youth, as they picked out the perfect brand new coat, hat, gloves and scarf to keep them each warm all winter long.

“It was a great feeling to see the kids’ faces, a really nice experience,” he said.

This was the second year Alpha Phi Alpha’s Rho alumni chapter in Philadelphia partnered with The Salvation Army for the event. With an increased amount of money raised in 2015, they were able to double the number of youth served – enough winter gear for 60 kids. And when the event was wrapping up, there was enough money left over for some parents to get new coats too.

“That was a nice surprise. The parents weren’t expecting that,” said Ivana Alexander, Program Manager at The Salvation Army’s Pioneer Corps Community Center, who accompanied youth and families on the trip.

As the first in his family to go to college, Tyree has since earned multiple degrees: Bachelor’s in Psychology from Cheyney University, a Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Pittsburgh, a Master’s of Arts in Higher Education from the University of Pennsylvania and is now enrolled in a PhD program in Educational Leadership at Temple University.  He hopes to use all that knowledge and dedication to community service to possibly start his own non-profit one day. In the meantime, he and his fraternity brothers are focused on growing their fundraising effort for “Operation Cold War for Kids” to serve more youth in need through The Salvation Army next year.