Clasped Hands in Service sorority establishes itself as oldest women’s organization at Baylor

Baylor CHIS meet for a bingo night in the SUB. Mia Crawford | Photographer

By Sarah Gallaher | Staff Writer

Baylor currently offers a variety of Greek Life and student organizations exclusively for women, but this was not always the case. Prior to the founding of the Clasped Hands in Service sorority in 1955, women could only participate in co-ed organizations.

As the oldest women’s organization at Baylor, CHIS emphasizes the importance of sisterhood and service, offering weekly service opportunities for active members. Though the group is much smaller than Panhellenic sororities, Joplin, Mo., senior and CHIS president Beth Patterson said the group of 12 is “small but mighty.”

“We consider ourselves to be a service sorority,” Patterson said. “We’re not Panhellenic, but we do some things other sororities do.”

CHIS participates in many of the same traditions as Greek Life, such as having bigs and littles as well as a formal recruitment process.

While Panhellenic sororities have philanthropies of their own, the main focus of CHIS is service. According to the CHIS website, members assist a variety of nonprofit organizations in the Baylor and Waco communities, such as the Gospel Cafe, the Salvation Army and Austin Boxer Rescue.

The Gospel Cafe, which serves free meals to the Waco community, was founded by a former CHIS member. According to Alpharetta, Ga., junior and CHIS service vice president Maria Celli, the sorority serves the Gospel Cafe on a regular basis.

“Being part of CHIS really opens your eyes to what real Waco is like and people’s everyday issues,” Celli said. “I just really think it opens your eyes and gets you out of the Baylor bubble.”

CHIS requires members to complete 25 hours of volunteer work per semester, 15 of which must be completed at weekly service events. For new members, there are only 12 mandatory service hours.

“When we do service, we can see the impact that we make on these organizations, and we get to do it with our friends,” Patterson said.

Although service is an important part of the organization, community is another key aspect, and members meet for social events like a galentine’s party and bingo night.

Both Patterson and Celli said joining CHIS allowed them to meet new people and create lasting friendships.

“I think people who want to be a part of a sisterhood at Baylor and who are interested in service and becoming connected to the Waco community, they would be a really good fit for CHIS,” Patterson said.

The CHIS recruitment process ends on Friday. Prior to joining, potential new members should attend upcoming social events, which are available via the @baylorchis Instagram. Patterson said current members would be happy to connect with anyone interested in joining this semester.

“For people who are wanting to join CHIS, it’s a great mix,” Celli said. “You get fun. You get service. You get to be with a great group of girls who are very service-minded and have good hearts. It just gives you a good community here at Baylor of people who have the same interest and heart for service that you do.”

Sarah Gallaher is a sophomore from Seattle, Washington majoring in public relations with a minor in political science. During her first year on the Lariat staff, she hopes to help inform her fellow students about things happening on campus. Sarah plans to return to Seattle after graduation to pursue a career in corporate public relations.