AKA's Beta Zeta Omega Chapter celebrates 75 years this weekend

2009-12-08T01:00:00Z AKA's Beta Zeta Omega Chapter celebrates 75 years this weekend The Times and Democrat
December 08, 2009 1:00 am

Beta Zeta Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. will play host to a weekend of activities Dec. 11-13, to commemorate the chapter’s 75 years in service to the Orangeburg community.

The chapter, which was chartered on Dec. 19, 1934, was the first established for graduate members of the sorority in the state and is the second oldest graduate chapter in the South Atlantic Region of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.

In keeping with the theme for the celebration, “An Enduring Legacy: Diamonds Are Forever,” a ticketed formal banquet and dance will be held the evening of Saturday, Dec. 12.

The public is invited to worship with chapter members and guests at 10 a.m. on Sunday, Dec. 13, at Trinity United Methodist Church, 185 Boulevard, Orangeburg. The community is also invited to the “Diamonds and Pearls Tea,” a drop-in reception from 4-6 p.m. at the chapter’s Heritage House, 1938 Russell St.

The celebration will conclude with the chapter’s 26th Annual Calendar Doll Benefit Pageant at 6 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 20, at the Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School Auditorium.

Special guest for the anniversary activities will be Dr. Julia Brogdon Purnell of Baton Rouge, La., who was initiated in the Beta Zeta Omega Chapter and served as 16th national president of the sorority from 1962-66. Under Purnell’s leadership, the sorority secured federal funding to establish the nation’s first Job Corps Center for women in Cleveland, Ohio.

Known as a champion for human rights and an eloquent orator, she further expanded the sorority’s sphere of influence by establishing a program office in the nation’s capital and initiating Alpha Kappa Alpha Day in the U.S. Congress.

Also being honored for her pivotal role in establishing the chapter is Beta Zeta Omega’s only living charter member, Orangeburg native Geraldyne Zimmerman who became a 75-year “Diamond” member of the sorority in 2007.

Ella Springs Jones, Alpha Kappa Alpha’s South Atlantic regional director and an initiate of the Beta Sigma chapter at South Carolina State University, will join present and former members of the Beta Zeta Omega and Gamma Nu (Claflin University) chapters for the occasion.

Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. is the oldest sorority established by and for African-American college and professional women in the country, founded in 1908 at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

In 1944, the local chapter’s Patroness Club was established. It was credited with organizing a PTA in each of the three public schools; lobbying Orangeburg City Council for traffic signals in the school district; and securing an officer to direct traffic and aid children in crossing the street before and after school. The chapter also initiated the Gray Lady Service, a collaborative partnership with the American Red Cross to provide school lunches for at-risk children in the 1950s.

Beta Zeta Omega continues to provide programs that benefit senior citizens as well as youth, working with the community to provide high school scholarships, funding to Edisto Habitat for Humanity, CASA Family Systems, American Red Cross and Special Olympics.

The chapter won the sorority’s National Program Award in 1998.

Debra Watson Norman serves as Beta Zeta Omega Chapter president. Marilyn Gibbs, Abbiegail Hugine, Dorothy Jarvis and Irene W. McCollom are co-chairs of the Diamond Celebration Committee.

For more information, contact Irene W. McCollom, 803-534-4805, or imccollom@sc.rr.com.

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