Chi Alpha Omega Through the Years
In February 2001, Gloria Covington, Yolander Dorsey, Jamel Ivory Penn and Sheila Reed met at the home of Carol Dewberry in Hoffman Estates, IL to discuss the vision for a northwest suburban chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. The members agreed that the proximity of the Evanston and west suburban chapters were not conducive to active participation for members in the northwest suburbs. They began to plan the strategy for moving forward with the vision and agreed to meet again in a few weeks. Following the initial meeting, they began to contact members they knew in the area and used the Alpha Kappa Alpha Directory to locate others in the northwest suburbs that they did not know. The next meeting was held at the Barrington Library where the members developed their strategy further and scheduled regular monthly meeting times. They continued to meet regularly over the spring and summer months. Slowly, the members began to gain additional support for their vision.
They selected the Northwest AKAs as the name of the group. The following members were elected as officers:
President - Jamel Ivory Penn
Vice President - Gloria Covington
Secretary - Sheila Reed
Treasurer - Renee M. McMullen
Jamel Ivory Penn contacted Nadine C. Bonds, the Central Regional Director, to discuss the requirements for establishing a chapter and the groupʼs progress. Nadine provided a thorough explanation of the requirements and agreed to meet with the Northwest AKAs during the Fall Cluster Meeting in Tinley Park, IL. The Northwest AKAs met with Nadine on Friday, September 7, 2001 and the tasks that lay ahead were clearly defined. Although Nadine indicated that the group had up to 2 years to complete the process of fulfilling the requirements for chartering, they were motivated to fulfill the requirements in time for consideration prior to the 68th Central Regional Conference which was to be held in Chicago, IL.
In accordance with the requirements for chartering, the Northwest AKAs began to plan and implement community service projects to meet the target programs in Arts, Black Family, Economics, Education and Health.
Nadine suggested Project Shoe Box as a very worthwhile project that would benefit students in Africa. The Northwest AKAs were immediately interested and excited about helping these students. Members were instructed to bring a shoebox filled with school supplies and personal hygiene products to the September, 2001 meeting. Some of the products were donated, however the majority were purchased by members. Following the meeting, the members began filling shoeboxes with all types of different supplies. They completed this project sending more that a dozen stuffed shoeboxes filled with pencils, pens, erasers, rulers, notebooks, soap, hair products and other toiletries. These supplies were sent to Project Shoebox in Philadelphia, PA. The members were overjoyed with the success of this program and the assistance provided some very deserving students.
The Northwest AKAs supported the First Annual Community-Unity Fest in the Village of Cabrini on September 29 – 30, 2001. The Arts and Music Festival was sponsored by Cabrini Green Youth and Family Services, Chicago Housing Authority and the mayorʼs Office of Special Events. Prior to the festival, a member participated in the planning meetings and also helped coordinate media communications to publicize the fest. The fest was a catalyst to bring together old and new residents for a celebration with food, music and fun. The Northwest AKAs were hands on volunteers during the 2-day event by helping with booth set-ups and as hostesses for the childrenʼs adventure play area.
On October 20, 2001, the Northwest AKAs volunteered at the 5th Annual Susan G. Komen Brest Cancer Foundation Race for the Cure in Chicago. The mission of this organization is to eradicate breast cancer as a life-threatening disease by advancing research, education, screening and treatment. The race was well attended by members of the Northwest AKAs. Their volunteer efforts helped to ensure that race participants received registration materials and directional assistance. In addition, one of the Northwest AKAs who is a breast cancer survivor walked the course. This event included 8,500 participants, 400 breast cancer survivors and raised $400,000. These funds were earmarked for national research and local breast cancer initiatives.
In support of the Arts target, the Northwest AKAs and guests enjoyed a night out at the theater for the Saturday November 17th, 2001 performance of “The Other Cinderella”. This was a long running comedy mainstay in the Chicagoland area. The “Cinderella” parody was written and produced by Ms. Jackie Taylor, an African American playwright and founder of the Black Ensemble Theater.
On December 15, 2001, the Northwest AKAs partnered with the DuPage County Humanitarian Service Project organization to help provide a joyful and more meaningful holiday experience for DuPage County needy families. Members donated their time to help the Humanitarian Service Project group wrap Christmas gifts and prepare boxes of food that were later distributed to about 90 needy families in the DuPage County area. The Health Committee partnered with the Black Family Committee in this initiative and donated first aid kits to the needy families to help with basic health care needs.
The Northwest AKAs decided to make a difference in the lives of the seniors at the Alden Poplar Creek Rehabilitation Health Care Center in Hoffman Estates, IL during the Christmas holiday season. Members volunteered at the annual holiday brunch on Sunday, December 16, 2001 by serving food, carrying trays, pushing wheelchairs and sharing warm conversations. The residents were very grateful for the kind expressions extended to them.
The Northwest AKAs co-sponsored a Financial Planning and Scholarship Workshop with the Youth Ministry of Christian Tabernacle Church on December 29, 2001. The attendees included high school juniors, seniors and college students. Members presented information to instruct the students in establishing and maintaining good credit, saving and investing money while in high school and college and obtaining financial aid for continuing education.
By February, 2002, the Northwest AKAs gained sufficient numbers and completed several community service projects. They eagerly anticipated the upcoming Central Regional Conference in Chicago. Chi Alpha Omega chapter was chartered with seventeen members on April 14, 2002 by Nadine C. Bonds, Central Regional Director. The officers elected during the first sorority meeting were:
President - Jamel Ivory Penn
Vice President - Gloria Covington
Secretary - Sheila Reed
Financial Secretary - Tonya Branch
Corresponding Secretary - Chandra Wiggs
Treasurer - Renee McMullen
Parliamentarian - Renita Pettigrew
Ivy Leaf Reporter - Jenise Emehel
The President appointed:
Hostess - Carolyn Wilson
Keeper of the door- Joyce Sinclair
Historian - Kim Collier-Jefferson
Membership Chair - Tiffany Morgan
The First 10 Years
Chi Alpha Omega has averaged around 30 members since the chapter’s chartering in 2002. Despite the small size, Chi Alpha Omega has consistently maintained a strong presence in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago, including Villages of Arlington Heights, Barrington, Elgin, Hoffman Estates, Palatine and Schaumburg. Chapter meetings are held on the second Saturday of each month and the meeting location has been primarily at local libraries until a decision was made to move the meeting location in support of a Non-traditional Entrepreneur. Chapter meetings were held for two years at Priscilla’s Ultimate Soulfood Restaurant in Streamwood, Illinois. This provided the chapter a private area to conduct the business meetings followed by an opportunity to fellowship and have lunch while supporting an African- American owned business.
Since 2002, Chi Alpha Omega has been a regular participant and supporter of events in support of a day of service honoring Martin Luther King Jr. The Martin Luther King Day of Service January 20, 2003 culminated a three-day King celebration in which Chi Alpha Omega partnered with Destiny Church in Hoffman Estates, IL, the village of Hoffman Estates and the Park District. The Corporation for National & Community Service provided a $7,500 grant. The day began with a community breakfast attended by 300 young people and adults including state and local public officials. Civil rights activist Dr. Barbara Sizemore, professor emeritus at DePaul University, gave the keynote address for the breakfast. Following the breakfast, sorors and hundreds of northwest suburban residents locked arms and sang songs while walking down Poplar Creek Drive in a march to commemorate Dr. King. After the breakfast and march, 60 young people including students from Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211, boarded buses to participate in service projects. Half of the youths spent three hours at Women In Need Growing Stronger (WINGS), a resale shop in Palatine where they sorted and arranged clothing and other items. The shop benefits women and children in need. The rest of the youths were bused to Destiny Church to organize its food pantry and clothing closet, and then to Friendship Village in Schaumburg to visit with the seniors and complete puzzles and word games of African American history. Sixty young people participated in a youth and service fair on Saturday and 250 people attended the Dr. King service on Sunday. Chi Alpha Omega received recognition in the Daily Herald and received an award for community service during the King Day Service at Destiny Church.
In subsequent years Chi Alpha Omega has continued to work with the Village of Hoffman Estates in support of the Martin Luther King Jr Commemorative Breakfast. Sorors help to set up for the breakfast as well as register attending guests.
Chi Alpha Omega’s Scholarship Program has served as the chapter’s most consistent and impactful community project. The chapter held their first annual Ivy Scholarship Gala in April 2003, which produced $5,000 in scholarships for deserving college-bound students. Since 2003, the chapter has awarded over $40,000 in scholarships awards to graduating high school students in the Northwest suburbs. Each year the scholarships have been awarded to 3 to 6 outstanding college bound students primarily based on academic achievement, extracurricular activities, and personal essay.
The chapter has supported the efforts of Powerhouse Productions for many years. Lead by Non-Traditional Entrepreneur (NTE) Valerie Profit, Powerhouse Productions sponsors an annual Black History Theatre event during February at the Schaumburg Prairie Arts Centre showcasing local talent, while providing a history lesson thru entertainment, such as “The Black Wall Street” and “Moments in Time.” This has been a meaningful partnership for Chi Alpha Omega as the chapter has provided recurring support of Powerhouse Productions, as well as helping to showcase other emerging NTEs. In addition to promoting the event and selling tickets, the chapter has hosted the event receptions, worked the ticket booth and served as hostesses and ushers for the plays.
Some other NTE events sponsored by Chi Alpha Omega include:
· Hosting a book signing event for two African American authors including one book by Soror Carolyn Wilson (2004)
· A Non-Traditional Entrepreneur Symposium (2007)
· Post meeting lunches at Priscilla’s Ultimate Soulfood Restaurant (2009 -2010)
· Fundraising event at African American owned Wine Styles in Schaumburg (2010)
Youth Enrichment Programs
Working with area youth has been one of the cornerstones of Chi Alpha Omega’s chapter’s community involvement. Over the years the program name has changed from AKA Teen, Ivy Leaque, then to Emerging Young Leaders, however , what has remained constant is the commitment to provide youth with workshops and sessions that provide valuable life, leadership , educational and study skills. During the chapters first years, sorors tutored and mentored youth at the Roselle Library. The program expanded to include a variety of enrichment sessions on a monthly basis and some of the workshops offered include:
· College Bound Workshop
· Career Exploration & Career Fair
· Teen Sexuality Workshop
· Leadership Training
· Finance & Fiscal Fitness
· Stock Market Game
· 100 Black Men College Fair
· Effective Study Skills
· Ivy League Recognition & Scholarship Dinner
· Black History Workshop
· Health & Fitness Workshop
· Suzlon Wind Energy Tour
· Effectively Dealing with Conflict
· Anti Bullying Workshop
Over the years, Chi Alpha Omega has contributed to many health initiatives. Beginning in 2003, sorors, along with family and friends, participated in the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Walk, exceeding the targeted fundraising goal each year. The chapter has supported the American Cancer Society for many years by serving as registrars and participating in the Kolman Race for the CureCancer Walks. These events have been more meaningful when supporting chapter sorors that have battled and survived breast cancer.
As diabetes is a serious health concern in the African American community, the chapter has also partnered with the American Diabetes Association for several years at the Diabetes Expo to help with set-up, distribute informational booklets, assist with healthy lifestyles cooking demonstrations, and product give-a-ways. In recognizing the importance of our families and our health, Chi Alpha Omega supported the Color of AIDS Campaign and Black HIV Awareness Day in 2010. Soror Carol Ash received an Emmy nomination for the series of special reports she produced for NBC-5. The report highlighted how the African American and Latino communities are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS.