Sorority’s makeover of Horizons kicks off 45th anniversary

Members of Alpha Kappa Alpha’s Phi Omega Chapter accept a “Thank You Card” from Horizons Residential Care Center.

Sorority’s makeover of Horizons kicks off 45th anniversary
August 02
08:58 2018

When the women of Alpha Kappa Alpha’s Phi Omega Chapter take on a fixer upper project, they pour in a lot of sweat and hard work and amazing things happen.

Horizons Residential Care Center is the most recent beneficiary of the local AKA chapter’s commitment to community service. Through a series of longstanding connections the two groups were brought together in the spring. It turned out that Horizons desperately needed a backyard makeover and the AKAs were in search of a fitting venue for their service project. And just like that, a wonderful partnership was formed. Horizons is home to individuals with many strengths but who also happen to have intellectual disabilities. The community of residents at Horizons receive around the clock care at a primary location off of Germanton Road and at its Arches facility on Bethabara Park Boulevard. Outdoor visits and activities provide much—needed sensory stimulation and meaningful activities for Arches residents. But over the years, limited funding stymied the upkeep of the outdoor area at the Arches. So to the rescue came the ladies Alpha Kappa Alpha with a national project tailor-made for Horizons-Arches.

“Horizons provided us with an opportunity to be really creative with improvements to a site that is non-traditional for us to work in. It also was an opportunity for us to work with a segment of the population we unfortunately do not typically get to serve,” says Lorraine M. Mortis, a co-chair of the chapter’s Environmental Ownership Committee. “Our project at Horizons, like all of our community activities, represents an embodiment of one of our sorority’s founding tenets- ‘To Be of Service to All Mankind.’

The unveiling of the AKA Sensory Garden Space kicked off Horizons’ yearlong 45th Anniversary Celebration.

The “improvements” to the site were substantial. Undaunted, chapter members literally dug in and raked, cut and planted with much attention given to the outcomes of creating a meaningful space for individuals experiencing challenges.

“We can never, ever, thank these ladies enough for the space they created for our residents and their families,” says Horizons CEO Richard Anderson. “This was some work. And these ladies were out here for days and weeks laughing and enjoying what they were doing for other people.

That is service in its truest form. We are grateful.”

The transformation at the space included cleaning out flower beds, painting raised flower spots in bright, engaging colors, planting vegetables, herbs and flowers of varying textures, scents and tastes. The gazebo was painted and restored, outdoor furniture was refashioned and wind chimes and solar lighting installed. Each effort was made with the individuals living at Horizons in mind. While a simple garden overhaul would have been simpler, chapter members opted to create a true Sensory Space, which can function as a routing part of individuals’ sensory stimulating sessions.

The Horizons project was part of the local chapter’s commitment to the AKA 1908 Playground Project, an international program of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. The purpose of the project is for undergraduate and graduate chapters to Restore, Refresh and Renew playgrounds, parks and other places using environmentally sound practices. Horizons staff are confident that this special contribution will have a lasting impact on individuals and families of Horizons. They also are excited about the new friends and partnership found with sorority members.

“We already felt very lucky to have a member of this sorority on our board. Witnessing first-hand the way the way the members worked on behalf of others was special,” Anderson says. “We are fortunate to count this sorority among our friends and community partners. And if you look around, you can see what kind of wonderful things can happen when people come together to help each other.”

Mortis, too, feels the experience was rewarding in many ways. “We believe we made simple, but meaningful, changes so that everyone who visits will feel comfortable and at home,” says Mortis. We greatly enjoyed getting to know Horizons’ residents and staff. We believe in being very hands-on and empowering others to do the same. The Horizons project really lent itself to this.”

Stephanie Sanders-Pratt and Ayanna VanSluytman are also committee co-chairs. Irma Richardson is president of the Phi Omega Chapter; Gabrielle Mortis is vice president.

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