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Local AKA sorority chapter upholds legacy of service

Lambda Tao Omega members accompanied teens and 
others with LTO’s College Admissions Process (CAP) 
mentoring group to fulfill Angel Tree requests from 
PADS clients during the 2018 holiday season. 

(Provided Photo)

Lambda Tao Omega members accompanied teens and
others with LTO’s College Admissions Process (CAP)
mentoring group to fulfill Angel Tree requests from
PADS clients during the 2018 holiday season. 

(Provided photos)

You could tell the story of Lamba Tau Omega through numbers. $25,000 in scholarships for African-American youth. 700 pairs of eyeglasses donated. 230 cases of water sent to the Bahamas. 400 non-perishable items donated to Rich Township Food Pantry.

Even with those impressive figures, the story of LTO rests on the shoulders of the 256 members, the local women who dedicate their time and resources to giving back to the community in the name of sisterhood. 

A large mission made local
Lambda Tau Omega is the local chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, an international organization comprising 300,000 members, according to the AKA website.
AKA was established in 1908 by nine female undergraduate students at Howard University in Washington D.C.

  An AKA Lambda Tau Omega
  Chapter member sews a
  pillowcase shirt to donate as
  part of the group’s 2019 MLK
  Day of Service activities.


“It was the first sorority for college educated African-American females. Because, of course, we weren’t allowed to join the others,” said Marilyn Hamb, president of LTO and an AKA member since her freshman year at Northwestern University. 


Hamb later graduated with a degree in chemistry; she went on to earn a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the Illinois Institute of Technology and worked at IBM for 33 years until her recent retirement.

Joining AKA was an outlet for finding community and a sense of cultural camaraderie. As a new college student in a predominantly white institution, “the music at a dance wasn’t what I would listen to or dance to,” Hamb said.

Joining AKA allows African-American women to socialize, connect and network. However, from its founding, Hamb said AKA was conceived as an organization focused on providing service and promoting scholarly achievement. 

AKA now boasts nearly 400 undergraduate chapters at colleges and universities, mostly concentrated in the eastern United States.

“As the women graduated from college, they wanted to continue to serve, so they created graduate chapters,” Hamb said. “All of our members are college educated, graduated professionals.”

These members comprise nearly 600 chapters, located in more varied areas of the country than their undergraduate chapters, reflecting the movement of AKA members as they become working professionals and influencers around the country.

Several chapters operate in the South Suburbs, including LTO, which has members from Homewood, Flossmoor and several surrounding towns. 

“We serve the community in which we live, and we’re very proud of that,” said Hamb, a Homewood resident.

Building up future generations
Often spotted wearing AKA’s signature green and pink colors, LTO’s members work throughout the H-F area to support the educational and growth goals of young African-American residents, while also volunteering to assist people in need locally and abroad.

  Wearing the AKA signature
  pink and green colors, a
  Lamba Tau Omega member
  leads young people in a
  present-wrapping volunteer


LTO offers several programs for young people, starting with the Emerging Pearls program for girls very early in life.

“One of the things we’re most proud of in our chapter is that we mentor girls starting at the age of 4,” Hamb said. “Emerging Pearls are girls from age 4 to second grade who we group, who we involve in organized age-appropriate activities. We introduce them to culture, art and science.”

The Strand of Pearls program is for girls in third through fifth grades, focusing on culture and science and issues especially important during adolescence, including self esteem and physical health.

“We’ve done hip-hop classes, where we have an instructor to come in and teach them dancing, and also the origin of hip-hop dance,” Hamb said. “We’ve had air traffic controllers come in and talk. How many kids get to meet an air traffic controller — especially an African-American air traffic controller? We want to expose them to things outside their thinking.”

As they mature, girls in sixth through eighth grades can join Cultured Pearls, which continues the development of educational and cultural interests.

Hamb said about 100 parents attend LTO’s yearly informational sessions about their Pearls programs.

In LTO’s College Admissions Process teen mentoring group, the organization assists male and female high school students to make a path toward college. One outing takes the teens to the HBCU College Fair in Chicago to give them a glimpse of the experience they could have while attending one of the country’s historically black colleges and universities.

“We talk about HBCUs and the importance of them,” Hamb said. “We make sure they understand (HBCUs) are options for them, in addition to PWIs (predominantly white institutions).”

Consistent community service
While holiday volunteerism is important, LTO vice president and program chairman Leah Hill said the group works year-round to support the south suburban community. Many of its efforts center around the MLK Day of Service, a day of volunteerism observed every January.

  Lambda Tau Omega Chapter
  charter member Jeanette W.
  Rogers, from left, is joined
  by LTO members Yvonne
  Williams and Anntoinette
  Austin-Johnson and Respond
  Now employees when the
  group donated toys to the
  agency in 2018.


In the lead-up to this year’s Day of Service on Jan. 20, LTO is collecting personal care items to be placed inside hygiene kits for distribution to homeless individuals. They are also collecting “seasonal wraps,” warm winter clothing including gloves, hats, scarves and socks.

“In December, (we are) collecting hygiene kit items, seasonal wraps and school supplies to be packed with the community on the Martin L. King Jr. Day of Service,” Hill said. “Our goal is to collect 1,908 items, which is the year the sorority was founded.”

While underprivileged students often receive school supplies donations at the start of each academic year, often their stock is depleted by mid-year. Hill said the collection is meant to freshen these students’ supplies.

“We just collected 700 pairs of eyeglasses, which was a record for our region, which we’ll donate to our partner, Lions Club, to be distributed to people in need,” Hill said.

Members of the community can join the LTO chapter of AKA by donating hygiene supplies and school supplies from noon to 3 p.m. on Jan. 20, 2020, which is the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service at New Covenant Missionary Baptist Church, 15213 5th Ave., Phoenix, Ill.

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