The history of the Pearls of Hope Foundation begins in the 1990s under the leadership of Elissa Walker, then President of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Zeta Omega chapter. The chapter had been dutifully saving money for several years and had accrued an amount of money which they believed could be used to purchase some property. After some discussion, it was determined that property ownership held some challenges for which the chapter was not prepared. Seeking to be good stewards of their funds, the membership changed direction from property ownership to the establishment of a charitable entity. President Walker, worked hard to put together the paperwork to file for incorporation of the ZOE (Zeta Omega Educational) Foundation. The bylaws were finalized August 25, 1996. There were a small number of sorority members who were part of the ZOE Foundation’s beginnings including: President Elissa Walker, Lucy McLamb, Wanda Herndon, Doris Smith, Delores Horton, Betty Hudson, Mary Butler and Zelma Mosely. All are listed in the Certificate of Incorporation as the members of the Zeta Omega Educational (ZOE) Foundation Board of Directors.
Shortly thereafter, the foundation was challenged by the illness and later death of President Elissa Walker which had a ripple effect on both the foundation and the sorority chapter. First Vice President Lucy McLamb worked hard to bring stability back to the chapter. The ZOE Foundation, however, was left relatively unattended. Not long afterwards, Wanda Herndon and Delores Horton relocated to other states and Mary Butler passed away.
For the next several years, there was no activity in moving the foundation forward. Then, at the urging of Rochellda Adderley, a sorority member who had some expertise in working with non-profit fundraising, planning for the foundation resumed. Former Zeta Omega President, Geraldine Purnell (now Cochran) agreed to lead the effort to re-establish the ZOE Foundation. She wanted to identify ten sorority members as board members to work with her to re-establish foundation. In discussion with a group of close Zeta Omega members, she identified a criteria to solicit potential members based on ten or more years in the sorority chapter and a commitment to serve, once asked. Geraldine notes that she asked ten sorority members and ten said yes. Those members who agreed to serve as the first board included: Geraldine Purnell, Eva K. Butler, Judith Morton, Ruby Washington, Patricia Griffin, Doris Smith, Mildred Holmes, Charlotte Walker, Claudette Evans, Betty Hudson and Rochellda Adderley. Saundra Brunson, then president of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Zeta Omega chapter was included as an ex-officio member. Betty Hudson passed away in December 2002 and Regena Manley was asked to take her place on the board.
The board quickly went about determining a mission statement, a board membership fee and a second membership class and fee. The following mission statement was agreed upon: “to promote advancement in education among members of diverse communities, provide scholarships, cultural, health and educational activities which address and support issues that impact the family while building an endowment”. The group determined that each member of the board would contribute $100 to the foundation as their membership costs. In addition, it was determined that the Directors would rotate off the board every two years. A second class of membership, “General Membership”, was also determined. A general member was defined as: a financial member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Zeta Omega chapter and payment of $25 annual membership dues. The general members’ rights included attendance at the annual foundation meeting and voting privileges for Foundation officers. The working group, met with other AKA chapters to discuss general board and foundation development.
In December of 2002, the first officers were elected to the foundation. Geraldine Purnell was elected President; Eva K. Butler, Vice President; Judith Morton, Secretary; and Ruby Washington, Treasurer.
In the course of working on ZOE’s development, President Purnell became aware that there were other entities with the name “ZOE”. In a general meeting on March 15, 2003, Lynn Sharps suggested Pearls of Hope as the new name. The group unanimously supported this name, because they liked the idea of “life and hope” in the title. After a slow progression and a few missteps, in October 27, 2004, the Pearls of Hope Foundation received it’s notification that the IRS had approved their application.
Zeta Omega Educational Foundation (ZOE) Charter Members (August 1996)
Pearls of Hope Foundation Presidents
Geraldine Purnell 2002 – June 30, 2007
Regena Manley July 1 2006 – June 30, 2008
Annie Young July 1, 2008 – June 30, 2010
Claudette Evans July 1, 2010 – June 30, 2013
Pamela Sharpe July 1, 2013 – June 30, 2017
Karen Burnett July 1, 2017 – June 30, 2021
Daphne Warner July 1, 2021 – Present
The mission of the Pearls of Hope Foundation is to advance education among members of diverse communities by providing scholarships, cultural, health, and educational activities which address and support issues that impact the family.
The goal of the Pearls of Hope Foundation is to be a broad-based, nonprofit organization, which secures resources from individuals, corporations, community organizations, and foundations to support its mission.
The members of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Zeta Omega chapter endorse the work of Pearls of Hope Foundation, Inc. by giving support for its continued growth and development and identifying projects that allow the Pearls of Hope Foundation, Inc. to carry out its mission. The Pearls of Hope Foundation, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.