A Suffolk County chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., the oldest Greek-letter organization established by African-American college-educated women, is celebrating 25 years of service this weekend.
"The sorority has helped African-American women throughout the years learn how to break through barriers," said Pleshette Shelton of Bay Shore, president of the local chapter, Sigma Psi Omega.
AKA was founded in 1908 by students at Howard University in Washington, D.C., and has more than 265,000 members in 983 chapters worldwide. Noted members include the late poet Maya Angelou, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Toni Morrison and Grammy Award-winning performer Alicia Keys.
The Sigma Psi Omega chapter was chartered in 1990 by 26 women in Hauppauge. It is one of a handful of graduate AKA chapters on Long Island.
To mark 25 years, the chapter plans to host a public service project at Tri Community Youth Agency in Huntington Saturday from 9 to 11:30 a.m.
The event is to include presentations on financial literacy, college opportunities, and a "green" initiative, which teaches people to save energy and paper. The sorority also will serve breakfast to the needy.
Debbie Rimler, director of Tri Community Youth Agency, said she is grateful for the chapter's activity and that parents have shown interest in the program. "What's really unique is there's something for the parents and something for the children," she said.
The chapter has planned an official 25-year celebration Sunday at Larkfield Manor in East Northport, with the induction of four new members, service awards for members and a showcase of the chapter's two-plus decades.
Over the past 18 months, the chapter has grown from 24 to 42 members, Shelton said. "I think what's special is that these women have all come together and actually seen the work we've done in the community," she said.
That work includes collecting necessities for homeless residents, supporting Suffolk youth through scholarships and incentive awards, conducting health workshops for young mothers, and donating school supplies to children who have incarcerated parents.
In September, the chapter worked with the NAACP and the Suffolk County Minority Council to distribute more than 500 book bags.
The sorority values giving back and being a positive role model in the community, Shelton said. "We have stayed committed to planning and executing programs, which have significantly improved our local communities," she said.
In the backdrop is more than 100 years of service by the national organization, with initiatives aimed at bolstering African-Americans, particularly girls and women, through programs in education and health care; and social action to advance rights, encourage women entrepreneurs, and to get women involved in technology.
"There's nothing like being in a group all working for the same thing," Shelton said. "It's so powerful and overwhelming."