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Hyde Park, Woodlawn, South Shore

Alpha Kappa Alpha Chapter Celebrates Centennial, Full Ownership Of Its Woodlawn Community Center This Month

The sorority's Theta Omega chapter will host a "mortgage burning" Saturday after paying off its community center in half the expected time.

Theta Omega chapter members pose outside the AKArama Foundation Community Service Center in Woodlawn.
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WOODLAWN — The local graduate chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority will honor its 100th anniversary and the early payment of its community center’s mortgage with several events over the coming weeks.

The Theta Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. was founded Nov. 5, 1922. Sorors will celebrate the chapter’s centennial Saturday with a sold-out reception and ceremonial “mortgage burning,” which honors the chapter’s full ownership of its AKARAMA Foundation Community Service Center in Woodlawn.

Members will also gather for a centennial ball Nov. 12 and brunch Nov. 13 at the Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile, 540 N. Michigan Ave. For tickets to the gala and brunch, visit the chapter’s website.

The celebrations provide sorors “an opportunity to look back at the things that the women who chartered this chapter did and the sacrifices they made,” said Kimberley Egonmwan, president of the Theta Omega chapter and the AKArama Foundation, the chapter’s nonprofit arm.

Theta Omega was the first chapter for college graduates of any sorority in Chicago, Egonmwan said. Sorors perform community service and participate in “social actions,” such as the campaign to save Mercy Hospital and calls for justice after Laquan McDonald’s murder, Egonmwan said.

Members also mentor Alpha Kappa Alpha undergraduates in chapters at the University of Chicago, Loyola University, Roosevelt University and the University of Illinois-Chicago.

The chapter offers Black women a chance “to have an impact in the community in many different ways,” Egonmwan said.

The AKArama Foundation Community Service Center, 6220 S. Ingleside Ave., opened in 2007. The center hosts the chapter’s community service programs, including a free legal aid clinic, food distribution and the Ascending Young Pearls mentoring program for girls, Egonmwan said.

Woodlawn was an ideal spot for the community center as the chapter would often meet in nearby Washington Park or at Olive Harvey College. “We’ve got members that have got extremely deep ties” to the neighborhood, Egonmwan said.

“Our center is used by people in the community [who are] extremely active through the programs that take place,” she said. “That’s why it was so important to make sure we owned it outright, right in our own community.”

A 30-year mortgage on the community center was paid off in half the time due to members’ generosity in donating to the chapter, Egonmwan said.

The property’s purchase is “a powerful show of Black economic empowerment by African-American women,” chapter leaders said in a statement.

The COVID-19 pandemic “basically shut us down for two years,” but chapter members are ramping up their community service efforts in the coming months, Egonmwan said. They plan to offer services to people experiencing homelessness this winter and expand their food distribution and youth programs next year.

“We feel very strongly about that this idea that the community center needs to be good for the people who have put blood, sweat and tear equity into the community,” Egonmwan said.

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