February 14, 1924 was no ordinary Valentine’s Day for five young women of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. These women were on a mission to establish something that would last much longer than flowers or chocolate. Members Adelaide Smith, Audrey Williams, Maude Young Ray Mamie Williams, and Marguerite Adams were executing their dream of keeping North Carolina pink and green. A ground-breaking moment for all members who were eligible to remain active on a graduate level in the state, Phi Omega became the first alumnae chapter in North Carolina under the direction of the South Atlantic Region.During the 1920’s, Phi Omega served as the chapter for members wishing to remain active in the surrounding triad area. Though they were new to the scene, the chapter was ready to continue the legacy of Alpha Kappa Alpha. By 1926, 14 out of the 15 Phi Omega members worked in the field of education. Their short term goals included making plans to establish a scholarship fund and increasing membership.

 

Nearly a decade later, Phi Omega was still standing strong. During the 1930’s, sorority meetings were held in members' homes and dues were five dollars. The chapter had the opportunity to send members Roslyn Marcus and Mary Robinson to the 1933 International Conference. This was just the beginning of a legacy of active participation on a regional and international level. Member Clarissa Dillard, a teacher at Winston-Salem Teacher’s College, (now Winston-Salem State University) served as First International Vice-President from 1934 to 1936 and South Atlantic Regional Director from 1946 to 1949. In 1934 Phi Omega set up a scholarship committee to award a local high school student $100.00 towards a college education. On February 25, 1940, Phi Omega hosted an afternoon meeting with International President Dorothy B. Ferebee. Two years later they hosted the 11th South Atlantic Regional Conference with the theme “All for the Defense for All.” From April 17-19, Fries Auditorium at Winston-Salem Teacher’s College was the site for planning meetings and sisterly fellowship. Phi Omega charter member, member Marguerite Adams, was the South Atlantic Regional Director at the time of convening. The international program was the International Non-Partisan Council on Public Affairs and Alpha Kappa Alpha Founder, Norma Boyd, was the International chairman. Phi Omega member Rachel Diggs, represented the South Atlantic Region as chairman of this committee in 1945. Diggs was influential in the charge to hire black mail carriers and postal employees in Winston-Salem. During her reign as President in the chapter, she solicited the support of other local organizations and jump-started a letter writing campaign to the local postmaster. Phi Omega remained busy throughout the 1940’s. In 1948, members began meeting on the 1st and 3rd Thursdays of the month. On January 29, 1949, Phi Omega assisted with the chartering of Gamma Lambda at Winston-Salem Teacher’s College. The next day, members celebrated Phi Omega's silver anniversary with a Silver Anniversary Tea at the YMCA. 500 invitations were sent out for the event. Fashionetta was initiated as a program to mentor young ladies in the community and raise funds for scholarships. The first Fashionetta was held on April 8, 1949 with three contestants and the them “On a Slow Boat to China.” Phi Omega continued and expanded its support of the Vocational Education Program and had 31 members. Phi Omega also established the Maude Young Ray Committee to oversee the room named after their charter member at Kate Bitting Memorial Hospital.

 

The next two decades brought an increase in membership and community involvement. Phi Omega had 52 members and was involved in 14 civic projects. The chapter sponsored a tuition scholarship for Winston-Salem Teacher’s College and another for Kate Bitting School of Nursing. They also became more active with the fight for civil rights by teaming up with the NAACP and the Urban League. In 1954, The South Atlantic Region split and caused North Carolina and Virginia to become the Mid-Atlantic Region. Phi Omega’s chapter song was also written during this time period. Penned by members Martha S. Atkins and Effie Herritage, it was sung at the 1956 initiation. Phi Omega hosted the Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference again in 1956.In 1970, Phi Omega member, Barbara K. Philips, became the Mid-Atlantic Regional Director. At the end of her term in 1974, she was elected First International Vice-President and from 1978 to 1982 she served as the International President. During her tenure she made Phi Omega proud by initiating several vital programs that are still important to the sorority today. Along with her twin sister and Phi Omega member, Constance Holland, Phillips founded the Educational Advancement Foundation(EAF) to secure charitable gifts to award scholarships, fellowships, and grants. She also broke ground for the Stoney Island Corporate Office in Chicago and launched a debt-free capital drive to pay for it.As the 70’s continued, Phi Omega pressed forward and established the Leadership Fellows Program for the area.

 

From 1978 to 1982, Phi Omega member, Vivian Burke was the International Membership Chairman. Phi Omega initiated the Alpha Kappa Alpha Connection and created the Alpha Kappa Alpha Heritage Club. Members also formed Phi Omega Inc. to help explore the purchase of real property for the chapter. Land was purchased and plans were made to build “Ivy Arms.” Phi Omega had the pleasure of hosting the Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference in 1971 and 1982. In 1990, Phi Omega chartered the Pi Beta Chapter on the campus of Wake Forest University. On August 17, 1991, the Ivy Arms Apartment Complex was dedicated. The apartments were built to provide the community with affordable housing. The clubhouse for the complex still serves as Phi Omega’s sorority house and is also used by members of the community. The PIMS Olympiad was also held during the 90’s. Phi Omega partnered with the Red Cross to attack the AIDS epidemic in the black community and conducted SAT prep classes for local high school students. In 1994, Phi Omega was back on the international stage with member Constance K. Holland’s appointment as International Parliamentarian. She served until 1998.

 

Phi Omega entered the millennium and hosted the Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference in 2003. Several Phi Omega members served in the community as elected officials. Former chapter member Dr. Lillian Lewis was the first African-American woman elected to the local school board and member Geneva Brown was a member of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School Board. Members Vivian Burke and Earline Parmon still work for the betterment of our state and community. Burke serves as a member of the city council and Mayor Pro Tempore, while Parmon is a member of the North Carolina House of Representatives. Additionally, Dr. Virginia K. Newell formally served on the Winston-Salem Board of Aldermen.From working in soup kitchens to conducting voter registration drives, Phi Omega continues to be of service to mankind with countless community initiatives 89 years later. The chapter tackles health and environmental concerns by participating at local health fairs and planting in a community garden. They host an annual Christmas party at Bethlehem Center that brings joy, food, and warm blankets to pre-school aged children in Winston-Salem. Phi Omega also prepares high school students for the next level of their education by hosting reading tutorials and SAT preparation classes, donating school supplies to low income students, and awarding scholarship money to those in need. From the very first Fashionetta to our more recent Cotillion and EYL programs, the chapter continues to train young ladies to uphold high moral and ethical standards and become leaders in the community.

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