Sugar-Free Service Project

by admin on October 29, 2012

Little bit of back-story: I am a member of a Christian sorority and each semester we participate in 2-3 service projects. This particular question focuses on the planning for our Halloween service project.

The plan for our Halloween service project was to get together and to make bags of candy to hand out at one of the local hospitals. However, as soon as the sorority’s secretary* announced this my alarm bells went off. My alarm bells got worse when the secretary said that all of the members should bring a single bag of candy. This concerned me for two reasons; primarily because of the marked up price of candy around Halloween and because I know most girls will go for the large bags of mixed candy. This would create little options for patients with restricted diets, and I would hate for them to not receive bags of candy. My uncle and future father-in-law are both diabetic and I know all too well what can happen if someone’s blood sugar gets too high or too low and how important it is for patients on restricted diets to follow their diets. However, because of my uncle and FFIL, I also know where to get sugar-free candy relatively cheaply, but the bags of sugar-free candy tend to be very small compared to the bags of regular candy. So my question is, would it be breaking etiquette if I brought more than one bag of sugar-free candy to the service project and suggested to the secretary and officers that we should probably make bags of candy for patients on restricted diets?

*The secretary is in charge of planning all service projects 1028-12

I honestly do not see what could possibly be offensive about bringing two small bags of candy which equals the size of one regular sized bag. But I would alert the secretary and officers before the meeting that you would be delighted to bring a sugar-free alternative for those with restricted diets.  Only the truly heartless  would view that as inappropriate.

{ 46 comments… read them below or add one }

Lorie October 29, 2012 at 5:59 am

Another worry is nut allergies!

I remember taking peanut brittle to my aunt when she was in the hospital because it was her favorite. The duaghter of the patient in the other bed in the room demanded I take it away because of her mother’s sever (sp?) peanut allergy. We complied by taking my aunt to the waiting room so she could enjoy her treat.

Your secretary’s heart is in the right place but maybe needs to think this through a bit. If anything, have her call the hospital and make sure it’s okay and what restrictions there are.

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Green123 October 29, 2012 at 6:03 am

I think the terribly sad article prior to this one, in which the young man found out about his mother’s death in such heartbreakingly awful circumstances puts into content the sheer inanity of this article. I’m sorry the OP of this article has nothing more important to consider in her life than whether two small bags of candy equals one large bag of candy…

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Bint October 29, 2012 at 6:05 am

Why didn’t you just say this at the time?

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Melissa October 29, 2012 at 7:10 am

I don’t think this is an etiquette issue…it’s a logistics one. Why not just discuss the kinds of dietary restrictions y’all need to take into account?

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--Lia October 29, 2012 at 7:34 am

Has this plan been given the O.K. by the hospital staff? When I’ve visited friends/family in any hospital or nursing home, we didn’t offer ANYTHING to a patient without running it by the nurse’s station first. That’s even something as small as a chocolate to Mother’s hospital roommate. When asked to get a cup of coffee for a hospital roommate, we said yes, went to get it, and dropped by the nurse’s station on the way to the coffee maker. The concern isn’t just sugar and nuts. People can be allergic to almost anything. While I trust people just to tell me what they can and cannot eat when I’m serving them in my home, the rules change in a hospital where the patients themselves might not know about special food requirements before a medical test or surgery. The patients might have enough on their minds and get mixed up between a doctor telling them they’re supposed to fast for 12 hours and that nice lady, a visitor, giving them candy. We checked with the nurse’s station EVERY time, didn’t trust ourselves to learn the stranger’s dietary restrictions. since they can change so suddenly. Giving out Halloween candy in a hospital sounds like a nightmare for the hospital staff. Couldn’t you keep to the idea of giving out treats but make the treats be comic books or trinkets or scary postcards?

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Jenny October 29, 2012 at 8:03 am

That’s unnecessarily mean, Green123. Just because someone else is facing a worse etiquette situation doesn’t mean a girl trying to go the right thing isn’t important either. If you tried to compare everyone’s problem with worse problems some people are facing, you’d basically never get out of bed. There’s a lot wrong with the world, but nothing wrong with trying to make sure your little corner of it is as nice as possible.

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Andi October 29, 2012 at 8:09 am

Due to restrictions in my son’s class at school I quit sending candy – now I do cute pencils, erasers, stickers, etc. the seasonal multipacks are very reasonably priced and no one has been allergic so far

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Mrs. Lovett October 29, 2012 at 8:16 am

Green123, I think it’s a little harsh to claim that OP has nothing more important to consider than this issue. She may have a whole host of other problems and concerns, or perhaps not, but the tragedy of one etiquette posting does not negate the less severe problems of others. Yes, this OP’s problem seems like a very simple one, but she came here asking for advice. She doesn’t even come across as distressed or worried, so comparing her post to a much more severe post seems unfair.

OP, I would bring up your concerns about dietary restrictions up to the secretary and make sure she’s aware that not everyone may be able to eat regular halloween candy. Let her know your plan, and surely your generous contribution of an extra bag of sugar-free candy would be more than welcome.

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KarenK October 29, 2012 at 8:25 am

@Green123:

Just because this isn’t the worst thing we’ve read on this board (and as you point out, it isn’t even the worst thing we’ve read today), doesn’t mean that it isn’t important to the OP. It isn’t a competition. Someone comes to us for advice on a matter that concerns him or her. If you think that a thread is trivial, don’t post on it. The OP wants advice, not to be scolded because her problem isn’t “worthy” enough for our attention.

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essie October 29, 2012 at 8:26 am

Lorie’s got the right idea. Call the hospital and ask what would be appropriate to bring to the children. In college, the students majoring in special ed would bring their charges around the dorm at Halloween. I air-popped popcorn (right in front of them) and scooped it into plastic bags for them. I figured popcorn was one thing few of the kids would have issues with. :) No butter, no salt, no oils – and the kids enjoyed watching it pop!

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L.J. October 29, 2012 at 8:41 am

Green123, it is a real etiquette concern to the LW. This is an etiquette site. If you want to read about vital social and political issues, this may not be the right site for you. I’d suggest other sites, but I fear they may not live up to your lofty ideals.

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Just Laura October 29, 2012 at 8:43 am

Green123:
Why are you sorry that the OP has nothing more to consider? I, for one, am happy the OP’s life is in such a good place that she has nothing worse with which to worry herself (no recent deaths, doesn’t live in a war zone, no cancer). I have nothing against this OP and am glad she is concerned about others in a hospital who might not be allowed to have sugar on this holiday.

Additionally, this is an etiquette blog. We aren’t here to discuss suicide awareness or genocide in Africa. Get over yourself, please.

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acr October 29, 2012 at 9:41 am

OP, I would suggest that your sorority’s secretary contact the hospital and get a number of kids, and ask them to tell them how many kids need sugar-free bags, nut-free bags, etc.

Also, I would suggest your club look at buying things like stickers, etc, to put in the bags as well as candy.

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Calliope October 29, 2012 at 9:59 am

I don’t see how bringing up the possibility of making treat bags for patients with dietary restrictions could possibly be construed as a breach of etiquette. Then again, I’ve never been in a sorority.

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--Lia October 29, 2012 at 10:31 am

Has this plan been given the O.K. by the hospital staff? When I’ve visited friends/family in any hospital or nursing home, we didn’t offer ANYTHING to a patient without running it by the nurse’s station first. That’s even something as small as a chocolate to Mother’s hospital roommate. When asked to get a cup of coffee for a hospital roommate, we said yes, went to get it, and dropped by the nurse’s station on the way to the coffee maker. The concern isn’t just sugar and nuts. People can be allergic to almost anything. While I trust people just to tell me what they can and cannot eat when I’m serving them in my home, the rules change in a hospital where the patients themselves might not know about special food requirements before a medical test or surgery. The patients might have enough on their minds and get mixed up between a doctor telling them they’re supposed to fast for 12 hours and that nice lady, a visitor, giving them candy. We checked with the nurse’s station EVERY time, didn’t trust ourselves to learn the stranger’s dietary restrictions. since they can change so suddenly. Giving out Halloween candy in a hospital sounds like a nightmare for the hospital staff. Couldn’t you keep to the idea of giving out treats but make the treats be comic books or trinkets or scary postcards?

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GroceryGirl October 29, 2012 at 11:03 am

Why not get some of those big bags of packets of pretzels? My health-concious mother always hands those out at Halloween, they aren’t too costly, you can get big quantities and they come in the festive Halloween colors.

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Cat Whisperer October 29, 2012 at 11:05 am

When you’re engaged in an act of public service, the top priority should be the people you’re trying to serve. I cannot see how it is an act of public service to make up nice little bags of candy if the people you’re planning on giving them to cannot enjoy them, let alone might suffer health consequences if they ate them. For this reason, I believe that the OP’s desire to bring in sugar-free candy as an alternative to normal candy is to be applauded.

OP, did your sorority’s secretary check with someone at the hospital to find out if giving out candy to people who are in the hospital is appropriate?

Good intentions can go awry. When I was in Girl Scouts many years ago, the woman who was our troop leader decided that it would be nice for the troop to make some Halloween treats for the elderly residents of a local nursing home. Troop leader’s idea of a nice treat was popcorn balls, which she hit on as something that didn’t cost a lot of money to make, were easy for the girls in the troop to put together, and could be a fun project because we could color them with food coloring and make them look nice and festive.

Imagine troop leader’s consternation when the troop went to present the popcorn balls to the elderly residents, and she was informed that because most of the residents had dentures or partial dental plates, popcorn was a particularly bad choice for them! The exasperated manager who had to break the news to troop leader made the point that if she’d been asked ahead of time, she would have been able to suggest something more appropriate for the residents to enjoy.

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AS October 29, 2012 at 11:14 am

OP, I think that is extremely thoughtful of you.

The possibility that recipients certain food from you might have food restrictions don’t always occur to all of us unless we are ourselves suffering from or know someone close to us who is suffering from conditions requiring food restrictions. My mother was severely diabetic (and she died quite young due to complications related to diabetes). She loved chocolates, and so I always used to take sugar-free chocolates for her and normal chocolates for my dad whenever I went to visit them. Because of my experience with her, my alarm bells go off too when we plan to distribute anything with sugar. But something like nut allergies would not come as readily (unless I make or take something for a friend/relative I know had severe nut allergies).

It is possible that the secretary just didn’t think of that possibility. If you mention it to the secretary, maybe all of you can even assign some individuals who would bring either sugar-free or nut-free or gluten-free, etc. candies. There will be people who are thankful that your organization has given them some options despite their restrictions.

You could always start your letter to the secretary by telling her what you told us – that your uncle and FFIL are diabetic, and so you were thinking that there might be other people in the hospitals who cannot eat sugared candies and hence you were planning to bring sugar-free candies. If the secretary takes offense, then she has some problem.

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Margo October 29, 2012 at 11:47 am

I don’t think there is anything wrong with it from an etiquette point of view. However, I would suggest that it would be sensible to raise the issue in advance, if you can, to avoid candy being wasted.

Other participants may also be able to check that they bring sugar-free / nut free candy too, and you can consider whather it would be appropriate to add any non-candy treats such as stickers / small toys for any children who cannot have candy.
(or you could consider books – have you come across All Hallows Read? http://www.allhallowsread.com/ )

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gramma dishes October 29, 2012 at 12:07 pm

Did she check with the hospital in advance to make sure that this special treat for the patients will even be permitted? There are so many different dietary considerations and restrictions among their patients that I’d be surprised that it would be allowed. Certainly your sorority’s heart is in the right place here, but I’m not sure that logistically it’s a doable project.

Green 123 ~~ Fortunately on this site participants are able to consider many different kinds of issues simultaneously, from super serious to those you might consider ‘lightweight’. There is no need for us to compare them with each other or “rate” them in importance. All are relevant.

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Mamapotamus October 29, 2012 at 12:34 pm

To people who do not regularly deal with food allergies or dietary considerations I guess this would seem petty. However there is so much to consider that are serious concerns for many people. Nut allergies, dye sensitivities, lactose intolerance, casin allergies, diabetic needs, reactions to artificial sweeteners, and the list goes on. The truth is that giving food as treways tricky but people still get about accommodating special needs. It very much is an etiquette issue.

As for things being worse for sometime else, it ways is. If you live believing that you can never be sad/scared/hurt/angry because someone else has it worse you also can never be happy/excited/proud/content because sometime else will always have it better.

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Cat October 29, 2012 at 12:41 pm

It makes perfect sense to have different candies so that all the children can be included. There are problems with sugar for some, nuts for others and some are allergic to chocolate.
I had one high school student who was allergic to chocolate. When I made chocolate cup cakes for the class, I made vanilla ones for him. I would have had an enemy for life if I had excluded him because he he could not have chocolate.

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Ann October 29, 2012 at 12:47 pm

What’s a “Christian” sorority? And, don’t all sororities undertake service projects?

It is very good of OP to think of dietary/medical reasons in her candy contribution. If there is any backlash whatsoever, the sorority will have to reclassify itself.

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whatever October 29, 2012 at 1:25 pm

If the OP is scaring of making simple, common-sense suggestions to the sorority leadership… is this a good organization for her to belong to? Are the leaders prone to biting the heads off of anyone who contradicts them? If so, go join another community service organization.

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nk October 29, 2012 at 1:47 pm

Green123: “I’m sorry the OP of this article has nothing more important to consider in her life than whether two small bags of candy equals one large bag of candy.”

Are you honestly saying that you feel sorry for the OP because her biggest problem right now is one that you consider inane? Are you wishing that she had bigger problems to face, like the death of a loved one?

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Auryn Grigori October 29, 2012 at 2:14 pm

Green123:

The website is called “Etiquette Hell,” not “who has it worse.”

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Kat October 29, 2012 at 2:36 pm

@Green123 you can’t evaluate the contents of the OP’s entire life based on this. I’ve submitted to this board a couple times, and on neither occasion has my submission been the most serious thing going on in my life. Perhaps the OP has very serious things on her mind which she doesn’t choose to share here.

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SJ October 29, 2012 at 2:43 pm

Bring it up, and it will probably be no big deal, especially since you’re willing to provide them.

I agree, though, bringing candy to a hospital doesn’t strike me as the best way to offer service for all the reasons you mentioned.

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Ellen October 29, 2012 at 3:24 pm

OP, it is good you are starting young with learning to deal with the way organizations (churches, businesses, schools, committees, etc.) work. Just because someone is in charge of a project does not mean they have a monopoly on good ideas, or have thought everything through. A good leader has the humility to realize this, but not all people on positions of authority/influence are good leaders, and you may have to deal with snarky personalities. That doesn’t mean you did anything wrong.

Your approach is a good one – if you are going to bring attention to a problem, make sure you are also offering a solution, like offering to check with the hospital and co-ordinate alternate treats for those who should not have candy. That is taking initiative, and as long as your communications about it are polite, you will be a real asset to the sorority and the secretary will probably be relieved that you are making her job better/easier, instead of harder.

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hakayama October 29, 2012 at 3:26 pm

While my first comment is still awaiting moderation, I had an epiphany probably worthy of ANY sorority sister (by choice I never was one).
What would be the worst that could/would happen if the OP brought TWO bags of candy, without prior authorization?

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Erin October 29, 2012 at 3:49 pm

We had to take my daughter to the emergency room after a nasty fall (she was fine, thank goodness, just shaken up), and one of the local churches had donated little activity bags for kids in the hospital, with coloring books and crayons, small toys, things like that. Maybe if the candy thing ends up being too difficult or complicated, small activity packets might be a decent alternative.

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Angel October 29, 2012 at 5:09 pm

Why do candy at all? There’s lots of other “treats” other than candy. Little toys, crayons, foam craft stuff, stickers, maybe some crossword puzzle books or gently used paperbacks for the older patients–I just think it would be easier than doing candy.

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Ruby October 29, 2012 at 5:19 pm

I was in the hospital with spinal meningitis on Halloween night, when I was 7 years old. They did have trick-or-treating for the kids around the hospital, but I was far too ill to go. So someone dressed as a pumpkin came in and fed me some cake and brought me candy. What a nice Halloween that was for me in the end.

I would have some sugar-free bags made for diabetics. Then I would give out regular bags of candy to everyone else. If someone has an allergy, they or their parents can take that candy out of the bag for them. (I’m sure that’s what they do when they trick-or-treat normally.)

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JGM1764 October 29, 2012 at 5:49 pm

I think the OP sounds like a very considerate young lady. Only a total boor would find that offensive.

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yankeegal77 October 29, 2012 at 5:58 pm

I would definitely check on if candy is even allowed at the hospital. And as an aside, OP, I agree with a PP who questioned why you are too timid to bring this up with the secretary. All you have to say is that some patients, from your experience, may not be allowed to have candy. If they are allowed, absolutely volunteer to bring either sugar-free candy or other healthy snacks–bags of nuts, pretzels, raisins, etc.

If she reacts badly, well…there are much bigger issues than candy at hand.

My sorority used to have events where we bought pre-cut puzzle cardboard, drew pictures on them, separated the puzzle pieces, put them into plastic bags, complete with beautiful ties, and sent ‘em to the children’s hospital. The kids loved them and they were perfectly safe. :)

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April Damon October 29, 2012 at 8:02 pm

Ann, why did you put quotations around the word Christian? I’m a bit confused about that.

I love yankeegal77′s suggestion.

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babs October 29, 2012 at 8:18 pm

I agree with those who say that it’s best to consider other options rather than candy. So many are on restricted diets. About sugar free chocolate, it can cause terrible stomach distress! Both my husband and I found this out the hard way when I was on a low-carb diet and bought the candy. I Googled it and found that this was a very common side effect, even after only having a couple of pieces. Not the best scenario when one is on a bedpan!

Also, several people mentioned children, but unless I’m missing something, I can’t see in this post where the OP mentioned they were doing to a children’s ward. If that were the case, bringing candy to children into a hospital is a terrible choice, as you are giving something to someone’s child that the parent might not approve of. I still think bringing bags of candy into a hospital is not the best choice. You can’t always clear with the nursing staff who can eat candy and who can’t. They are just too busy. And it’s not just diabetics, there are all sorts of conditions that would restrict sweets. I’m sure they could put their heads together and think of other ways to brighten the day of the patients.

Anyway, OP, you are very kind to take into consideration all of the patients and not want to leave anyone out.

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barbarian October 29, 2012 at 9:39 pm

The sorority members may simply not have enough life experience yet to be aware of various medical problems and their dietary issues. Whenever a group coordinates something for a charity, it is always best to call ahead to find out what is most needed. As a past organization leader, we have always asked local groups in advance what they need if they have been a featured charity to educate the members at meetings.

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Raven October 30, 2012 at 9:09 am

Candy is a nice idea, but as everyone has said, the potential for dietary/health issues is pretty large. I would suggest, as others have, to do non-food items intead. Colouring books, crayons, word-searches, etc – these are things kids love, that won’t get in the way of their medical needs.

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Jay October 30, 2012 at 10:15 am

This whole thing seems a bit off, and speaking as a diabetic, I don’t eat sugar-free candy because 99% of it is made of maltitol, which is essentially a laxitive.

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JGM1764 October 30, 2012 at 11:10 am

If it is for a children’s ward, perhaps goody bags with small toys, stickers, crayons or such would be okay?

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Library Diva October 30, 2012 at 1:11 pm

I think that whenever OP’s sorority wants to do something like that, they should run it by the person in charge of the hospital/nursing home/inpatient facility/shelter, etc. just to be sure that their goodwill is being directed towards the right place. Dietary concerns aside, they could be the 15th group this month to think of doing this particular project, or the place you want to help with may be abnormally low on clients at the moment you choose to help. A local charity got started precisely this way, in fact: they had collected a bunch of toys to give to children who were hospitalized on the cancer ward over Christmas, only to find out that there was less than half the amount of sick children they’d planned on. Since this isn’t normally the case, the extra toys became part of a revolving collection of toys, books, games and other distractions the hospital keeps for these children.

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Angeldrac October 30, 2012 at 2:56 pm

This is totally off topic, but this discussion is bringing this to my mind so I hope people read this still.
As and RN who previously worked in a children’s hospital, while it was lovely to see so many people come out of the woodwork to bring gifts and entertainment to patients during Christmas and Easter, two things were evident:
1) more people wanted to visit the children’s cancer ward than all the other wards put together. There are plentyof other very sick children – especially in the adolescent wards and mental health wards, which were almost never visited.
2) talking to my friends working in adult hospital, there was almost NEVER people visiting with treats and entertainment, like they did at the children’s hospital.
Just something for charitable organisations to ponder when planning their next events…..

ON TOPIC – OP, you take your two bags! Good for you! Maybe consider talkin to the other girls about making some non-food treat bags (with stickers etc.) for those who can’t have candy.

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Shea October 31, 2012 at 1:08 pm

@Ann, I assume a Christian sorority is a sorority based around the Christian religion or some particular sect thereof. Not having ever been a member of a sorority (and not being Christian) I can’t be sure, but I’ve heard of Jewish sororities, African-American sororities, and Latina sororities. I don’t see anything “off” about a Christian sorority, if that’s what you’re suggesting.

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Grace October 31, 2012 at 9:31 pm

Are you in SAO? That’s the only Christian sorority I know (hi, sister!) I think that;s exactly what you should do-no etiquette breach! I know my chapter would be happy to consider those concerns.

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Enna November 5, 2012 at 1:36 pm

OP, have your group checked it with the hospital first? That might be the best course of action and then you can all get sweets that are suitable.

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