A Letter to the Community

August 2019

Thank you for your generous support of our programs. As a result of your sponsorship, we have been able to raise over $100,000 over the last two years to support our chapter programs. Additionally, our chapter was awarded the “Best in Philanthropy Award” by our national organization, The Links, Incorporated at its National Assembly for our fundraising efforts. Your support enables us to continue to provide transformational programs to residents of the Greater Cleveland Community. We wanted to provide you with an update of our activities since our last bi-annual fundraising event. The Links, Incorporated, one of the nation’s oldest and largest volunteer service organizations, is an international, not-for-profit organization with over 15,000 professional women of color in 288 chapters located in 42 states, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of the Bahamas and the United Kingdom.

Since 1987, the Western Reserve (OH) Chapter has provided a broad array of services, all aimed at enriching the lives of residents and enhancing the quality of life of Greater Clevelanders. Annually, each of the 45 members of the chapter commits to a minimum of 48 hours to develop and execute community service programs. That’s over 2,000 hours of community service!

Here are some of our more notable programs since our last “Letter to the Community”.

• Growing Leaders: The mission and vision of this program is to increase the number of African American young adults who successfully transition from high school to college and/or the workforce by focusing on the soft skills needed for sustained achievement. The curriculum includes educational modules on topics including communication/interviewing skills, professionalism/work ethic, critical thinking, financial literacy, healthy behaviors and entrepreneurial skills as well as exposure to the Arts. We partner with the Cleveland Botanical Gardens’ Green Corps program, Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) and several other area high schools. Our budget for this program is approximately $28,000 per year. Over the four years of the program we provided 18 scholarships to students for their first year of college. One of our goals is to raise enough funds to provide an annual scholarship to the students during each of their years of undergraduate studies which would increase our annual budget for this program to $100,000. The Growing Leaders program was recognized at our Central Area Conference and won “First Place” for a Health and Human Services program.

• HIV/AIDS Awareness. This program ensures that our members and the communities we serve understand the incidence and prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the African-American community, how these infections are transmitted, and how the diseases can be prevented. The statistics are compelling: 75% of all new HIV infections occur among African Americans; over half of all new HIV infections occurred in youth ages 15 to 29. We partnered with Recovery Resources and other local institutions in a collaborative to increase awareness about HIV/AIDS disease and HIV testing in the East Cleveland area. We committed up to $75,000 over five years to support the HIV outreach and prevention efforts. A portion of these funds enabled Recovery Resources to develop and launch a high-level, multi-faceted marketing campaign using billboards, palm cards, and social media to increase HIV awareness, encourage HIV testing and promote Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), especially among the targeted population. We also hosted two HIV/AIDS awareness symposia featuring noted experts to facilitate intergenerational dialogue – an initial step in demystifying HIV/AIDS in the African American community.

• Conversations With…: This lecture and interactive community dialogue is our signature 30-year legacy program. Having recognized that constructively changing our community begins with conversations and dialogue between people who have different experiences and perspectives, our chapter has supported community conversations focused on a variety of topics including history, voting rights, arts, health issues, etc. We believe this is one way to experience the feelings of those who came before us and to connect current day events with critical chapters in our past. Two recent lectures include “Conversations with… the Congresswomen,” in which 15th National President of The Links, Incorporated, Margot James Copeland, moderated a dialogue between the United States Congresswomen from Ohio, The Honorable Marcia L. Fudge and The Honorable Joyce Beatty and “Conversations with…James Robenalt,” a dialogue and discussion focused on his book Ballots and Bullets-Black Power Politics and Urban Guerilla Warfare in 1968 Cleveland. The goals in both of these events included increasing awareness and comfort in articulating perspectives on issues of importance affecting communities of color, increasing 2020 voter education and voter turnout and influencing potential voters to not only register but to become motivated enough to work on issues they are passionate about. More than 200 people registered for these events. The budget for each of these programs is $5,000 to $7,000. Our goal is to provide an annual lecture on topics of current interest.

• Community Baby Shower: Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the leading cause of death in infants aged one month to a year and African American babies have two times greater risk of SIDS. In 2017, safe sleeping spaces, known as Baby Boxes, were introduced in Ohio. Although every expecting parent was eligible to receive a free Baby Box after participating in a 20-minute educational program, there was no plan in place for distribution of these Baby Boxes to high-risk communities. Our solution involved hosting a Community Baby Shower in Cleveland in one of the zip codes with the highest infant mortality rates. The intent is to provide safe sleeping education, a safe sleeping location, and to ensure that expectant mothers are receiving prenatal care. We organized a coalition of organizations interested in addressing this public health crisis and to provide access to a wide range of services to support women and their babies to positively impact mortality rates for both. Partnerships included University Hospitals MacDonald Women’s Hospital, Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital; Care Alliance Health Center; the Cleveland Metropolitan School District; Babies Need Boxes OH; Cuyahoga County Women Infant and Children Program’s MomsFirst; Birthing Beautiful Communities: Buckeye Health; Hope Behavioral Health; Cuyahoga County Fatherhood Initiative; BabyWearing International; Man Power; Paramount Advantage Medicaid; Dudelas Family Planning; Applewood Centers: Support the Girls; and The Centers for Families and Children. Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.; Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.; and Jack and Jill of America, Inc. provided donations and volunteers to staff the events. Attendees were also given information on voter education and voter registration by the Northeast OH Voters Advocates. We planned and hosted five events over a two-year period where we provided free maternity package for expectant mothers that included a safe sleep space for babies; educational resources on safe sleep practices, prenatal care, labor and birth, breastfeeding and postpartum contraception; baby clothes, diapers and much more to approximately 1,650 mothers, fathers and children. This program is being recognized at our 2019 Central Area Conference as a “Best Practices” program. Our annual budget for this program is $3,000 to $5,000. Whether it is education, women and children, health or national issues such as race and voting rights, our goal is to create sustainable, transformational programs that improve the health and welfare of the citizens of the Greater Cleveland community with outcomes that are measurable and that impact the lives of those we touch. Our success is based on the continuous support of our many sponsors and partners.