SPOTLIGHT ON THE LINKS, INCORPORATED
On November 9, 1946, two Philadelphia matrons, Margaret Hawkins and Sarah Scott, founded The Links, Incorporated, inducting seven other friends into the organization with the goal of providing service to their communities through friendship. In November 2016, hundreds of members of the organization returned to Philadelphia to commemorate The Links' 70th anniversary by celebrating the past and charting a course for the future.
The Links, Incorporated is one of the oldest and largest women's volunteer service organizations in the United States. It is comprised of some 14,000 professional women of color in 41 states, the District of Columbia, and the Bahamas, and its members - congresswomen, mayors, senior-level corporate executives, doctors, lawyers, judges, public and private sector leaders and heads of community organizations - contribute more than 500,000 hours of service each year to ensure the cultural and economic survival of African Americans and other people of African ancestry.
During the Philadelphia celebration, a panel of former national presidents discussed some of the important moments in The Links' history, where they think the organization should go and the opportunities they see for growth. A forum of emerging leaders in medicine, business, politics, and media, who are all relatively new to Linkdom, talked about what drew them to the organization, keeps them involved and the avenues they would like to see the organization explore.
"I think it is important for us to be visionary about how we survive as an organization, and that means we have to be willing to constantly reinvent ourselves," says Dr. Glenda Newell-Harris, President, The Links, Incorporated. "We have a growing number of young Links that think, function and engage very differently with the world, and a core of longtime Links whose contributions have helped build the organization into what it is today. The key is connecting them to each other and the issues facing our communities in a way that is meaningful to them, and that keeps us relevant."
As an organization, The Links focuses its efforts on affecting positive change in five facets: Services to Youth, the Arts, National Trends and Services, International Trends and Services and Health and Human Services. Dr. Newell-Harris also encourages chapters to incorporate education and awareness about such topical issues as HIV and Hepatitis C, mental health, the Black Lives Matter movement and human trafficking. "Many people believe that individuals who get caught up in the web of human trafficking are bad people," Dr. Newell-Harris explains, "but there are children in our neighborhoods and students on our college campuses who are victims of trafficking and need our help and support."
Technology is helping The Links to usher in changes that help promote growth. "We're using it to become more efficient in how we conduct business and that leaves us more time for friendship. Technology also enables members to receive information and have access to Links leadership and one another in a way that is unprecedented," says Dr. Newell-Harris.
In addition, the organization is sharing, with its membership, the great women who are among their ranks - offering sources of pride, inspiration and example to Links young and old - and enhancing the value of its brand by reviewing, evaluating and being more discerning about the manner in which its name and logo is used.
This 70th year has provided several memorable moments for The Links. The organization presented a million dollar donation to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in the nation's capital - a pledge initially announced during the tenure of Immediate Past President Margot James Copeland. In April 2016, The Links retired the mortgage on the Washington, DC building it purchased to house its national headquarters. In addition, the organization expanded the sphere of its service by engaging in mission work that will enhance resources and opportunities for residents on the island of Jamaica. Dr. Newell-Harris also experienced one of the great joys in Linkdom: participating in the induction of her daughter, Brittany, into the Alameda Contra Costa Chapter in Oakland, California as a third-generation member of The Links.
"An effective organization is very clear about its identity and its mission," Dr. Newell-Harris points out. "The Links Incorporated is an organization of movers, shakers, and decision makers. Our goal is to keep growing and going in ways that matter to both our members and the communities we serve."