On February 2, 1952, Epsilon Sigma Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. was chartered. The Charter Members and Officers were: Bernice Jenkins Lee, President Pearl Brown Nichols, Vice-President Izetta Lee Mildan Whittaker, Recording Secretary Annie Hawkins Carroll, Corresponding Secretary Shirley Gilliam Phillips, Treasurer Geraldyn Rowland, Membership Chairman Ella G. Lowry, Historian Bette Lewis Dufin, Hostess Mary Alice Chisley, Ivy Leaf Reporter as well as: Fannie Branch Edden, Gladys Phillips, and Annie Small Garret.
The Regional Director, Lillian M. Parrott presided over the ceremony that established Epsilon Sigma Omega as the first African-American Greek Letter Sorority to be established in the capitol city of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Pearl Nichols, charter member, is the longest serving active member of Epsilon Sigma Omega and belongs to the chapter’s Golden Sorority Sisters Club along with Arwilda Haynes, Ruth Jackson, and Hettie Love.
Former Presidents who served the chapter:
|1956-57||Mary Alice Chisley|
|1999-2001||Susan Simms Marsh|
|2006-2009||Barbara A. Thompson|
|2014-2015||Yasmin M Coleman|
Since its beginning, Epsilon Sigma Omega distinguished itself in the community as an organization recognized for its humanitarian service, philanthropic investments in children and youth, and as a dynamic stakeholder in the Harrisburg community at large. Through the years, as more professionals from diverse backgrounds moved into the area, Epsilon Sigma Omega initiated and sponsored programs that are in alignment with the goals of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. Many of these programs have become cornerstones in the community.
Since education is a critical component of the sorority’s purpose, Epsilon Sigma Omega has focused the majority of its fundraising efforts to provide over $260,000 in scholarships to deserving youth of the community. One example is the “Senior Salute” program. The “Senior Salute” is a public program that honors and recognizes students from diverse backgrounds within the Greater Harrisburg area for outstanding academic achievement, creative and artistic excellence, athletic accomplishments and altruistic service to school and community.
Over the years, Epsilon Sigma Omega members have been role models and mentors to over 2000 girls and boys in many ways including the chapter’s Holiday Cotillion program. In the past, Epsilon Sigma Omega sponsored a Historic Black College/University (HBCU) tour that exposed students and parents to the rich heritage and contributions of Historically Black Colleges and Universities through tours, workshops, and other activities that have highlighted some of the benefits of attending a HBCU. In addition, several tours/field trips to concerts, theatrical performances, as well as visits to local, statewide, and regional museums have been have been provided for local youth as an opportunity to enrich their cultural experiences.
In furthering the interests of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., the Epsilon Sigma Omega chapter has increased the awareness of health issues in the Black community by collaborating with the “Hamilton Community Health Center.” Epsilon Sigma Omega, in partnership with the Hamilton Community Health Center sponsored several health fairs and carnivals, which received recognition by the North Atlantic Region and the international gathering of all members, Boule as an “Outstanding Program of Service” in 1984.
Epsilon Sigma Omega published the first “Green Pages,” an African-American Business Directory of the local area and hosted the first African-American Business Awards Luncheon to honor the achievements of local African-American entrepreneurs.
Epsilon Sigma Omega continues to address health issues. Over the years, featured programs have included forums on topics such as breast cancer, diabetes and mental illness. The chapter has also participated in walk-a-thons to raise awareness and funds for breast cancer and diabetes. More recently, Epsilon Sigma Omega has hosted “Pink Goes Red” events to increase awareness of heart disease in women; and an Annual It’s About You Women’s Conference which features dynamic speakers and subject matter experts who speak on holistic health topics addressing physical, emotional as well as spiritual concerns.
Epsilon Sigma Omega established two activities that have become mainstay service projects that have received city-wide local media coverage; The Annual National African-American Read-In, which has been staged at local libraries, churches, and at the Pennsylvania State Museum and the Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service. The National African American Read-In program invites children, youth, and families to enjoy literature read by guest readers who read books by African-American authors and illustrators. The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service (MLK Day of Service) project is one of the sorority’s International Community Impact Days that is an example of sorority’s mantra of a “Day on, Not a Day Off.” For many years, on this day, members donated, prepared and served meals to some of Harrisburg’s most needy population at a local soup kitchen.
The Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Day of Service, has included donating, preparing, and serving meals to special populations in Harrisburg at a local soup kitchen, Senior Center, as well as churches and schools. In addition to serving the specific populations, Epsilon Sigma Omega Chapter members’ presence provides some well-deserved time off to the regular servers for the day.
To broaden community outreach and presence in the community, Epsilon Sigma Omega has also volunteered for other MLK Day of Service activities, including partnering with other NPHC members to “Beautify the Broad Street Market; hosting a Sunday Supper which honored US veterans from all military branches; providing food and toiletries supplies to the Robert M. Jackson Veterans Center; serving meals to seniors at the Heinz-Menaker Senior Center; painting hallways and classrooms at the Camp Curtin Elementary School; and assisted the First Brethren Lutheran Church with preparing breakfast and lunches for volunteers who participated in various service projects around the city on MLK Day of Service.
Epsilon Sigma Omega understands that service may not always yield immediate results that are recognized by the community. As such, in efforts to ensure outstanding service to its community, the chapter has made donations that will influence the community in many ways. Here are three recognizable contributions of Epsilon Sigma Omega to the community: the commission, underwriting, and donation of a bust of the late Honorable K. Leroy Irvis, the first African-American Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, on display in the State Museum of Pennsylvania; four murals in the lobby and hallways of the Hamilton Health Center at Walnut Street; and the Harriet Braxton Playground at Seventh and McClay Streets. These projects were commissioned and underwritten by Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Epsilon Sigma Omega Chapter, and are so noted at each site.
As a small to mid-size chapter, throughout the years, Epsilon Sigma Omega takes pride in acknowledging that it has hosted three North Atlantic Regional Conferences (NARC): the 31st NARC at the Penn Harris Hotel in 1962; the 46th NARC at the Host Inn Harrisburg in 1977; and the crowning 58th NARC at Hershey Lodge and Convention Center in 1989.
In November 1969, Epsilon Sigma Omega and the undergraduate chapter it sponsors, Delta Gamma, hosted the Regional Leadership Conference at Penn State University-University Park Campus at State College, PA. In addition, Epsilon Sigma Omega has hosted two Cluster II Leadership Conferences, one in the Fall of 1993, and the second in the Fall of 2003. Gail Davis, chapter member and former President, was appointed as one of the first Cluster II Co-coordinators. Yasmin M. Coleman was appointed to serve as a Cluster II Co-Coordinator in 2014.
While many of Epsilon Sigma Omega chapter members have served the sisterhood at the Cluster and Regional levels, we are extremely proud that Susan Simms Marsh was our first member to be elected to the International Recording Secretary (2010-2014)on the International Board of Directors. In addition, she was appointed as the Regional Representative to the International Nominating Committee in 2002.
Epsilon Sigma Omega, in celebrating more than 60 years of service continues to build a legacy of service in its diamond jubilee years. Epsilon Sigma Omega has roots that are embedded into the fabric of the Harrisburg community and culture. This rich history is the result of the many dedicated members of Epsilon Sigma Omega who have helped to anchor the chapter in so many ways by sharing their talents, time, and resources. The sisterhood flourishes in the “Capitol City” and these benchmarks are just a meager representation of Epsilon Sigma Omega’s viable presence in Central Pennsylvania. Endless legacy and blessings are still flourishing.