Members of the Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Pi Gamma Zeta Chapter pose for a photo in front of a Lonestar Catering truck Nov. 3. The sorority chapter handed out free meals to every poll worker at all 36 Southfield voting precincts.

Members of the Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Pi Gamma Zeta Chapter pose for a photo in front of a Lonestar Catering truck Nov. 3. The sorority chapter handed out free meals to every poll worker at all 36 Southfield voting precincts.

Photo provided Trycennia Dean-Motley


Local sorority hands out free meals to Southfield poll workers on Election Day

By: Jacob Herbert | Southfield Sun | Published November 10, 2020

 Janelle McCullough and Daireus McCullough registered to vote at Southfield City Hall Nov. 3. The siblings voted for the first time this year.

Janelle McCullough and Daireus McCullough registered to vote at Southfield City Hall Nov. 3. The siblings voted for the first time this year.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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SOUTHFIELD — According to Southfield Mayor Ken Siver, a total of roughly 47,000 residents voted in the 2020 election.

Of those, 37,000 voted either early or through absentee voting, and 10,000 came to vote in person.

In-person voters meant that poll workers had a necessary and important job to do in collecting and tallying votes.

Trycennia Dean-Motley, the president of the Pi Gamma Zeta chapter of the Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, recognized this and wanted to help the workers.

The sorority partnered with local caterer Lonestar Catering to hand out free meals to poll workers at all 36 precincts in Southfield. This was the first year Pi Gamma Zeta has ever put boots on the ground on Election Day.

“There was one particular precinct where the supervisor there said she’d been doing it for 25 years and she has never had an organization come in and feed them,” Dean-Motley said. “They work 14-hour days, usually longer. That’s why we wanted to serve them, but we also wanted to serve them because of the pandemic. These citizens are risking their lives so people have the right to vote.”

Dean-Motley said the sorority chapter has held events where they try to get residents registered to vote. They have also held workshops to educate women on how to run for office and get involved in politics.

The sorority held a handful of planning meetings and contacted Siver and the city clerk’s office to make sure this type of event was going to be possible.

“They had notified me in advance that they planned to do this,” Siver said. “It was very generous and thoughtful of them. That’s a long day to be out there. I was out at the polls and I saw them.”

A team of about 12 from the sorority were tasked with delivering the food on Election Day. They went to the first six locations together before splitting off into teams.

The boxed lunches contained a wrapped sandwich of either turkey, tuna or ham. Workers also received a pop, water, some fruit and a bag of chips. To top off the meal, custom candy bars were distributed with messages of thanks.

“It was amazing,” Dean-Motley said. “They were really appreciative and thanked us for thinking about them. I think people were really amazed that we delivered to all 36 precincts.”

Dean-Motley said she views poll workers as frontline workers, and that’s why it was important to her for the sorority to help. During a pandemic, poll workers are often unaware of what symptoms voters may be experiencing.

“You don’t know where people have been or who they’ve been around, and then you have to go in there from five in the morning sometimes until nine or ten o’clock at night,” Dean-Motley said. “We didn’t want them to have to worry about finding a place to eat. I feel like they sacrificed their lives for people to exercise their right to vote, and I think that’s awesome. I feel like they’re heroes.”

Life at the polls was pretty much business as usual on Election Day. Siver said precincts had long lines in a few places in the morning, but that cleaned with little delay. There were one or two voting machines that acted up, but those issues were also corrected.

The 37,000 early and absentee voters was a record in Southfield this election cycle. Siver felt that from the beginning residents were motivated to vote and there was a clear feeling of election fever. Residents started voting as early as Sept. 15, and there was a steady stream of people voting early for six weeks prior to Election Day.

“I think not all, but the majority of Southfield voters were responding to the national leadership and were motivated to vote because of the way things were going,” Siver said.

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