Inside Central Jersey Alumnae
The Central Jersey Alumnae (CJA) Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. was chartered on November 8, 1975 at Calvary Baptist Church in Plainfield, New Jersey. Chapter membership has grown from 30 to more than 200. As of November 2015, we celebrate 40 years of rendering service to the Middlesex, Somerset, and Union counties of New Jersey.
According to written history documented by the late Arneida M. Lee, it was in the late summer of 1974 that Sorors P. Merle Wade, Patricia Garrison and Arneida M. Lee called together all known Deltas living in the vicinity of Middlesex, Somerset and Union counties interested in forming an alumnae chapter of Deltas (in this area). Many Sorors were affiliated with North Jersey chapter but found the traveling to the Newark area inconvenient. They also felt Deltas were needed in the communities in the above-mentioned counties.
The first meeting was held in Fellowship Hall of Bethel Presbyterian Church, Plainfield with approximately fifty Sorors present. Soror Lee presided at the meeting and Soror Wade acted as secretary. Soror Garrison had charge of hospitality. It was at this meeting that the mechanics for organizing Central Jersey Alumnae were set in motion. After many communications and several visits from our Regional Director, Soror Marilyn Holmes, our chapter received its charter on November 8th, 1975 in the Fellowship Hall of Calvary Baptist Church, Plainfield.
Our Sister chapter, Montclair very graciously sponsored us. It should be noted that our chapter name was Plainfield chapter due to an error. The charter was returned with the request that the name be corrected to read “Central Jersey Alumnae Chapter”. This was done and the charter returned to us.
Over the years, CJA has been extremely productive. The chapter's efforts in Arts and Letters have included co-sponsoring art shows, supporting Black theater and highlighting the works of Black authors. We have sponsored the Delta Diversity in the Arts Festival to bring attention to the work of many local artists of all types, including visual artists, fine artists, spoken word artists, and literary artists. CJA has received grants that enable us to bring performing artists into our area's elementary and high schools for the cultural enrichment of young people. We have sponsored tributes to Dr. Martin Luther King held in Plainfield and we commissioned Alonzo Adams, a renowned local artist to paint "Priceless Moments."
A grant from the Black United Fund allowed the Education Committee to conduct workshops informing students about tools for success in high school as well as to encourage them to further their studies with information on colleges, financial aid, and admissions requirements. In cooperation, with SABLE Heritage Enterprise, CJA has sponsored high school students on SABLE's tour of prestigious historically Black colleges and universities. CJA also organized a School America initiative that enlists the efforts of volunteers who pledge to read at least one story a week to a young child. Annually, CJA teams with counselors in the surrounding area to conduct financial aid seminars for high school students and their parents at New Brunswick, Elizabeth, Plainfield, and Franklin High Schools.
Through the efforts of the Community and International Development Committee (CID), CJA adopted a school in Kenya and provided financial assistance to the support the educational development of students in the school. In addition, CJA has sponsored a number of events that benefit senior citizens and children. For example, CJA sponsored a Kwanzaa celebration for preschool children, a tribute honoring our elders, and a fair focused on parenting. Last May, CJA provided assistance to women transitioning between welfare and work with a Dress to Impress event. The participants received several complete professionally appropriate work outfits, as well as tips on hair care and makeup during the day-long event. Each December, CJA selects a local social service agency for children to provide a holiday party that includes donations of toys and clothes.
The Mental and Physical Health Committee has opened new doors by encouraging CJA's members to be more conscious of conditions and influences that directly impact us physically, mentally, and emotionally. CJA participates in the annual American Cancer Society's Walkathon. For several years, CJA had won the top non-profit fundraiser award for its efforts in support of the American Cancer Society.
The Social Action Committee keeps the chapter informed of local, state and federal legislation that directly affects our communities. CJA participates in numerous letter writing campaigns to various legislators on issues of significance to the community, most recently writing to our U.S. congressional representatives in support of legislation focused on the war on drugs in our communities. CJA conducts voter registration drives to encourage people to take an active role in government. In fact, CJA held five drives over the first few months of 2000. The chapter also lends its support and encouragement to members who seek public office. CJA participates in two annual campaigns aimed at creating linkages with our state and federal governments: "Delta Days at the Nation's Capitol" and "Delta Days at the New Jersey State House." These events are centered around meetings with our congressional representatives and the Governor of New Jersey.
With more than $20,000 in scholarships going to college-bound high school students representing Middlesex, Somerset, and Union counties, CJA squarely supports and encourages the academic achievements of young people.
CJA has served as role models and mentors to young women in the seventh and eight grades through its Dr. Betty Shabazz Delta Academy program. Through this three-year old program, more than 30 young women have participated in technology seminars, career days, field trips to area businesses, and various community service activities.
In the area of Economic Development, CJA has sponsored free tax preparation services in the community. CJA has also promoted the patronage of local Black-owned businesses through its Adopt-a-Black Business program.
The Central Jersey Alumnae chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. is extremely proud of its efforts in such vast, but critical areas for our communities. The chapter hopes to further its efforts with the establishment of the CJA Foundation. This non-profit arm of our chapter will help to enhance CJA's ability to garner support for worthy initiatives in the communities we serve. Armed with the belief that more can be done, CJA will continue with its steadfast commitment to public service by planning new activities and supporting efforts that open doors for future leaders.
The Central Jersey Alumnae chapter is in the Eastern Region of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. For more information, visit the Eastern Region's Website at www.easternregiondst.org.