CHIS serves Waco for over 60 years

L-R Rachel Petitti and Andrea Pouso participate in Clean Up at the Cameron Park Zoo.

Every week, the women of CHIS, Clasped Hands in Service, service sorority branch out of the Baylor bubble to meet needs in Waco.

“It’s really a great way to grow during college,” Oklahoma City senior Jenna Hampton and the president of CHIS said. “It exposes you to a lot of different ways you can volunteer and it shows you that volunteering can be fun.”

Created in 1955 by a group of service minded women, CHIS was founded to serve Baylor and the community with the purpose of “encouraging campus friendships and fostering a cooperative spirit between university and community,” as stated in the organization’s mission. The Greek letter X was chosen as the name, representing the acronym ‘Clasped Hands In Service.’

CHIS members can be found in a different part of Waco every Saturday morning. World Hunger Relief Farm, Waco Humane Society, Quality Care Waco, and Keep Waco Beautiful represent a few of the organizations that CHIS work with. While members are not required to serve every Saturday, they are required to complete a minimum of 25 hours of community service each semester.

“I’ve been to the World Hunger Relief Farm five times now with CHIS,” Hampton said. “I’ve helped them build a shed before that was just the bare bones when I first went, and now it’s a full functioning shed. It’s cool because you can see how their projects are developing.”

Perhaps one of the most unique things about the sisterhood is that it truly gives members a heart for life long service. Sherry Castello, Class of ’58 and member of the charter class of CHIS, remembers how the organization started.

Castello lived down the hall from two students named Mina Fields and Betsy Pettyjohn. Fields, a transfer from SMU, wanted to join a service organization at Baylor but learned that no such organization existed for women.

“I look back on that and think: what would it take to transfer into another university, and to begin an organization within your first year on the floor?” Castello said. “There were a lot of service organizations that men could belong to, and it was just rather odd that we’d come that far in our growth not to have that for women.”

Almost 60 years later, Castello still serves Waco through the Gospel Cafe, a restaurant that serves free meals to those in need affiliated with CrossTies Church. As a founding member of CrossTies Church, Castello recognizes the influence that CHIS had on her leadership today. At the Gospel Cafe, Castello manages a crew of volunteers every week.

“Being an only child myself, anything corporate is a new step for me. But I think that [CHIS] probably laid a ground work to get me out of my kind of solitary only-childness,” Castello said. “It certainly would have been a way of [showing me] how a group of people could come together around something, even something new, and have it take off.”

More than a service organization, CHIS is a sisterhood which has connected women long after graduation. Hampton says that in addition to volunteering at the Gospel Cafe with Castello, they serve under a CHIS alumni at Keep Waco Beautiful, and can learn from their faculty sponsor, who was also a member.

Those interested in becoming a member of CHIS can learn more at an informational meeting Wednesday from 6-7 p.m. in the Baines Room of the SUB.