(pictured above: Chapter leaders Gladys Wilson, financial secretary, Charette Guthrie, recording secretary, Elizabeth Newton, first vice president, Lisa Smith, president, Camille French, second vice president and Shareka Brown, corresponding secretary.)
The Winston-Salem Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. celebrated an important milestone in the chapter’s history Saturday.
The chapter, which is home to a sisterhood of roughly 160 active members, celebrated its 75th anniversary during a spirited gala at the downtown Embassy Suites hotel on April 5.
“This is indeed a special occasion,” Chapter President Lisa Smith told the nearly 300 attendees who gathered in the hotel’s Grand Pavilion Ballroom to take part in the celebration. “I’m glad that each one of you chose to spend this time with us.”
Mayor Allen Joines read a proclamation declaring April 5, 2014 “Delta Sigma Theta Day” in the City of Winston-Salem. He congratulated the women on their myriad contributions to the community and wished them continued success going forward.
“I can say without a doubt that Winston-Salem is a much better place because of the work of this organization,” the mayor declared. “…I commend the positive influence of the members on this city.”
Since its founding in 1939, the Winston-Salem Alumnae Chapter has left its mark on the local community in a variety of ways. The chapter, which strives to continue “improving the welfare of women, youth, and the community through acts of public service and scholarship,” according to its leadership, helped to bring the talent of African American artists to the forefront with the creation of Delta Fine Arts, Inc., which hosted a weeklong exhibition of 100 works at the Benton Convention Center in 1972. At the time, the show, the precursor for the 501c3 nonprofit that now is located on New Walkertown Road, was one of the largest exhibitions of African American art in the Southeast.
Other important initiatives led by the chapter include the formation of the nonprofit Delta Visions Inc. and a host of community service projects, including their trademark Jabberwock events, which raise money to help deserving local students attend college.
“It’s kind of special in a sense to know that the chapter’s been around doing great work in the community for 75 years,” said Smith, who joined Delta in 1991 as a student at N.C. A&T State University. “…I just think the best is yet to come as we continue to uplift and be of service to others in the community.”
Gala Co-Chair Mable Stevenson, an active Delta for more than five decades, said she was attracted to the sorority, which celebrated its centennial last year, because of the outpouring of love and support she received from sorors, even before she officially became a member.
“I am an only child, and I always wanted sisters and brothers,” she said of her motivation to join the organization. “ …It was such a warm, loving chapter on campus and they made me feel so sisterly.”
The North Carolina Central University alumna said she and Co-Chair Marion Winbush envisioned the black tie affair as an opportunity for sorors and their families to kick back and enjoy the spoils of their hard work, but also as an expression of gratitude to the many community partners who have helped the chapter achieve its service goals over the years.
“We wanted it to be fun and we wanted it to be sisterly and brotherly,” Stevenson said. “We wanted to show the community love and how much we appreciate the support that they give us.”
Winbush, who joined the local chapter in 1959, lists its commitment to ensuring scholastic opportunities for the next generation among its most important contributions.
“Having been a counselor for 32 years, my interest is in developing the minds of young folks and helping them to seek opportunities,” she explained.
Winbush, a retired school guidance counselor, is one of 14 living past chapter presidents, having presided over the chapter when it celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1989. Winbush presented gifts to Smith and the 12 past presidents who were in attendance at the gala in appreciation of their service to the chapter.
“This is like the Academy Awards for me tonight, giving out awards and receiving awards,” she declared. “This is exciting to me.”
The chapter also recognized “Delta Dears,” Deltas wsooho have reached age 62 or above, during the gala, presenting each beaming soror with a long stemmed red rose.
“It’s good to be a Delta Dear,” declared Billie Matthews, a retired educator and college professor who joined the sisterhood 63 years ago. “It’s just a pleasure to be a Delta, number one because of the service to mankind that has been a part of Delta for as long as I’ve been a Delta and even longer.”
Over the course of her lengthy tenure, Matthews, who still tutors youth in her spare time, says she has seen the organization evolve.
“There have been so many changes, not just from the local level but from the national level as well, but I still feel like we’re moving in the right direction, towards sisterhood and service,” said Matthews, whose line sister, Bertha Maxwell Roddy, served as the organization’s 20th national president. “…Delta has always been positive.”
Past Chapter President Simona Atkins Allen led the group in the 1950’s and said she feels it has held true to its founders’ initial vision. Atkins Allen, the granddaughter of WSSU founder Simon Green Atkins, said she felt fortunate to be in the number at such an auspicious moment in the chapter’s history.
“It’s very exciting,” she declared. “I know a number of the women who established this chapter in 1939 and I think they’d be pleased with what this chapter has done.”
For more information about The Winston-Salem Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, Inc., visit www.wsalumnaedst.org.