Fraternity gives 'Holiday with Omega' to 200 senior citizens at Bain Center


For 200 senior citizens at the Florence Bain Senior Center in Columbia, it was a welcome break in the routine, with entertainment, refreshments and door prizes, overseen by a group of energetic younger people.

For members of Omega Psi Phi fraternity's Columbia-based Tau Pi Chapter, last week's "Holiday with Omega" party was a chance to build some bridges with the community on the occasion of the group's 20th anniversary.

"We want to establish a relationship with the seniors," said James T. Dixon, chairman of the Social Action Committee of the Tau Pi Chapter.

The historically black fraternity, founded in 1911 at Howard University in Washington, has chapters around the world including Korea, Germany and Nassau and focuses on community service.

The organization has more than 30,000 active members, including actor Bill Cosby, basketball player Michael Jordan and the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson.

The Columbia chapter -- with 55 active members -- has provided scholarships to graduating high school students, assisted needy families with food and clothing, repaired a home for battered women and painted senior citizens' homes.

It found at Florence Bain a welcome place to celebrate its 20th anniversary, offering the senior citizens an atmosphere of merriment.

Tuesday's festivities began with recognition of those who were 90 and older.

Florence Jarvis and Lena Childs, both Columbia residents who are 90, and Effie Brown, 93, of Jessup were among those who stood while the audience applauded.

Entertainment included a jester and door prizes. Lunch was served at tables festooned with glittering stars and covered with orchid-colored tablecloths by about 12 members of the fraternity under the direction of Elsie Waters, 73, the nutrition site manager.

"Years ago, we had nothing like this for older people," said Effie Brown. "We are older but we still have a sense of humor."

Judi Bard, one of three members of the program development team with the Howard County Office on Aging, is adamant about the importance of such activities for seniors.

"You can see the enjoyment in their faces," she said. "Funds have been put aside for seniors in need, but for the arts, there are none. . . . We could not be able to afford something like this if it weren't for the Tau Pi Chapter."

Edith Gunther, an 82-year-old resident of Glenelg who is a member of three senior groups, says such programs are important to seniors and can provide a break from what may sometimes be dull routine.

Before Tuesday's event, she said, "I haven't seen any programs like this."

Fraternity members stressed that the program reflects a continuing commitment on the part of the group to community activities.

"Uplift is one of our cardinal principles of the fraternity," said Air Force Capt. Jay Kerr, 27, whose father, James Kerr Sr., also is a member of Tau Pi. "We want to let seniors know that we are there. Their day can get pretty routine -- we wanted to give them something different."

Frank Miles, 48, an architect who joined the fraternity last year, said the entire community benefits from such programs.

"We are all college-educated guys who are focused on giving back to society some of the gifts we have received," he said.

"Someday we are going to be senior citizens, and we want to let them know that we care about them."

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