The Western Reserve (OH) Chapter of The Links, Incorporated is an organization of accomplished, dedicated women whose purpose is to make a meaningful difference in the communities we serve. The Links members are newsmakers, role models, mentors, activists and volunteers who are linked in friendship and connected in service. Five Facets comprise our programmatic focus. A synopsis of our programs, which represent three decades of outreach to the Greater Cleveland community, is highlighted below. To learn more about our current programs, please visit our website at westernreservelinks.org/programs.
THE ARTS FACET goal is to increase and expand art activity, and elevate our programs through arts integration and effectively create an arts renaissance within our organization and programmatic efforts. Throughout the nation today, Links Chapters partner with museums, symphonies, arts councils, educational institutes and corporations in order to support art programs, especially where there is a focus on artists of color. Links are creating and supporting opportunities for educating minority youth in the arts and presenting and supporting performances by youth and accomplished professional artists in a diversity of disciplines.
1. Roots of American Music a project consisting of four theme-based sessions ― the Kickoff of Living Rhythms; an African Roots of Rhythm workshop; an Afro-Brazilian Music workshop; and, an Exploration of African and Brazilian Polyrhythms of Hip Hop session. The project included a four-month musical residency program focused on the African roots of music and was targeted at children at the Sutphen School of Music, the George Washington Carver Elementary School, and the YWCA of Cleveland.
2. “Friends of Sutphen Music School”, four-year collaboration with the Phyllis Wheatley Sutphen School of Music. Western Reserve (OH) Chapter of The Links, Incorporated donated much-needed musical instruments, office furniture, supplies, and equipment. The Chapter also sponsored a $1,000 life membership to Phyllis Wheatley; supported numerous musical arts programs; and established a partnership between Sutphen and the George Washington Carver Elementary School to provide selected students an opportunity to participate in an intense culturally enriched program of vocal instruction, dance, poetry, violin and wind lessons.
3. Paper Doll Project, engaged children grades kindergarten to eighth grade in an authentic, interactive, hands-on Native American Doll Exhibit and educational presentation of over 50 dolls in tribal dress representing Alaska, Canada, the United States, Central and South America. The project enabled the 450 children who participated to understand the role of Native Americans in Ohio history. The children also took part in a three-week Paper Doll Art Project where they colored and embellished over 500 dolls for children being treated in emergency rooms at Metro Health, University Hospitals, and the Cleveland Clinic. The Paper Doll project was collaboration with the George Washington Carver Elementary School.
4. A Gala Arts Debut, a Black-Tie fundraiser to introduce classically trained artists to the community, presented in collaboration with Accord Associates.
5. Karamu House Project, a major fundraising and audience development effort which allowed the Western Reserve (OH) Chapter to present Karamu with a check for $10,000 and over $1,200 in books, toys, and games for the day care center.
6. Camille A. Brown’s BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play embodies all of the movement languages that have been rooted in the African American culture. Through a partnership with DANCECleveland, Western Reserve (OH) Chapter of The Links, Incorporated assisted in funding and providing young dancers from the Cleveland School of the Arts and the Inner City Ballet an opportunity to participate in a master class lesson with professional male and female dancers from CAB. We helped to shape the choreography of the dance through participating in the research with Camille A. Brown, a prolific and award-winning choreographer. The impact lead to a new body of work about the lives of Black girls — BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play. On November 14, 2015, we supported the Cleveland production of this dance at the Hanna Theatre where we generated 20% of the audience (100 people). We invited girls (and a few boys); each youth was accompanied by a parent or an adult mentor. This audience pair was able to see the dance, participate in a talk-back session immediately following the production, and share in an on-going dialogue about the messages in the dance production.
INTERNATIONAL TRENDS AND SERVICES FACET expands the global platform for programs designed and developed to service the educational, health and cultural needs of people of African descent throughout the world. All programmatic components of the facet are delivered through measurable and sustainable service delivery methods that reach women and their families. The foremost goal of the International Trends and Services facet is to provide opportunities for tangible service in other countries. Our “boots on the ground” approach provides for more personalized methods for assisting and improving the lives of men, women, and children worldwide through long-term programs committed to empowerment and public policy leadership in advocating for social justice.
7. The Lost Boys of Sudan Project, a drive to support the thirty-eight young men, orphaned by a fourteen-year civil war in the Sudan, who were brought to Cleveland by the Catholic Charities Migration and Refugee Services to rebuild their lives. Western Reserve Link members, with the assistance of Catholic Charities and Sudanese representatives, completed a needs assessment to collect critically-needed items to supply “Arrival Survival Kits”.
7. The Lost Boys of Sudan Project, a drive to support the thirty-eight young men, orphaned by a fourteen-year civil war in the Sudan, who were brought to Cleveland by the Catholic Charities Migration and Refugee Services to rebuild their lives. Western Reserve Link members, with the assistance of Catholic Charities and Sudanese representatives, completed a needs assessment to collect critically-needed items to supply “Arrival Survival Kits”
8. Western Reserve Links supported the Books for Africa Library Project, an on-going effort to establish libraries in rural areas of Ghana. We worked directly with the Chief Executive Officer and organizations founder, Hilda Bromley to deliver over 800 books to Ghana for this project.
9. St. Jude School, Kampala, Uganda, a partnership with St. Jude School in Kampala, Uganda; the Community Support for Capacity Development (CSCD); Dr. Margaret Musoke Bukenya; and Empowering Parent/Guardians for Quality Childcare to provide hygiene and educational kits to approximately 400 young boys and girls, grades 1 through 7 who attend the only public school in Kampala. Each child received a kit in a tote with the joint logos of The Links, Incorporated, Western Reserve (OH) Chapter, St. Jude’s Primary School and Warner Girls’ Leadership Academy. The partnership also included a “pen pal” program between 60 of the girl students at St. Jude’s and the fourth and fifth grade students from Warner Girls’ Leadership Academy.
10. The Western Reserve [OH] Chapter has committed to a five-year transformational program to support St. Mary’s Preparatory and Kindergarten School (St. Mary’s Prep), which is in Montpelier, St. James Parish, Jamaica. In October 2016, six members of the chapter went to the school to implement a modified-version of the Read, Write and Illustrate! Program, which is a language arts skills development program, to help sixth-grade students prepare for the Grade Six Admissions Test (GSAT). The chapter has committed over $30,000 to support this international program.
NATIONAL TRENDS AND SERVICES FACET has a vision to eliminate disparities by reducing barriers to services through advocacy, education, and service. The programs serve as a catalyst for change promoting individual and community empowerment.
11. Literature to Life©, a collaboration with the New York American Place Theatre to bring their Literature to Life adaptation to Cleveland Metropolitan School educators, parents and students. The Western Reserve (OH) Chapter’s collaborations included Toni Morrison’s bestseller, The Bluest Eye, featuring Tanya Little of Los Angeles; Claude Brown’s Manchild in the Promised Land, featuring Joseph Edward; and Richard Wright’s, Black Boy featuring Wynn Handman. During the three years of this collaboration, these week-long residency programs were presented to over 12,137 community members, administrators, teachers and students in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, East Cleveland School District, Regina High School, Lake Ridge Academy, and the Warrensville Heights School District.
12. Voter Registration, a voter registration drive at area colleges and universities which delivered an increase of registered voters to the electoral process.
13. “Conversations with…” a speaker’s series addressing cultural, educational, health and social issues. Past speakers include Dr. Adrienne Lash Jones, Associate Professor of African American Studies; Fatoumata Batta of Burkinso Faso, West Africa; Dr. Jacqueline Jordan Irvine, Emory University; Dr. Ronald Ferguson, Harvard University; Dr. Linda Bradley, Cleveland Clinic; Dr. Deborah Plummer Bussey, DL Plummer and Associates; Dr. Margaret Musoke Bukenya, Mother Support Initiative, Kampala, Uganda, East Africa; Audrey Staton, Head of School, Warner Girls Leadership Academy, Cleveland, OH; Jackson Wright, MD, PhD on Hypertension Clinical Trials for the Mayo Clinic project; and U.S. Congresswomen Marcia Fudge and Joyce Beatty with Margot James Copeland, the 15th National President, as moderator.
SERVICES TO YOUTH FACET is an integrated approach to preparing young people to succeed in the 21st century workforce. The primary goals of this facet are to promote early literacy; implement local mentoring programs from kindergarten through college; close the academic achievement gaps from kindergarten through college; introduce and support Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education and career readiness; implement college readiness programs; increase high school and college graduation rates; award college scholarships and build educational endowments; and, to promote and support HBCUs.
14. Triumph House Project was a program that provided executive coaching and strategic planning sessions with the agency’s Executive Director and staff; and partnered with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to contribute more than 150 toys and educational games enabling mothers to have gifts to give their children for the holidays. Triumph House is a center for homeless women and children at Cleveland Metropolitan Housing Authority.
15. Color Me Learning was an innovative literacy pilot program of oral readings, storytelling, games, video and audio tapes, book parties, and book fairs, targeted at teen mothers and their children from the YWCA’s Project Redirection Program.
16. Project LEAD: High Expectations was a national Links program the Western Reserve (OH) Chapter delivered locally to promote values clarification and positive self-esteem among Cleveland City middle-school children.
17. Women’s Shelter Project, a $14,000 refurbishing project at the Cleveland Center for Domestic Violence and support of the Jones Home, a shelter for battered women and families.
18. Making Health a Habit Grant Project, a multifaceted health and wellness grant project administered in East Cleveland, funded by The Cleveland Foundation from Forest City Hospital Funds.
19. Hathaway Brown Aspire Program. Western Reserve (OH) Chapter partnered with Hathaway Brown School to provide support and mentoring to adolescent girls with limited opportunities. The Aspire Program is a tuition-free academic and leadership program that connects Hathaway Brown School with under-resourced public schools around Cleveland. The program targets high achieving girls limited in opportunity because of low family income and lack of exposure to higher education.
20. Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority Youth Football Team. The Western Reserve (OH) Chapter partnered with Cleveland Metropolitan Housing Authority to provide monetary support for the Youth Football Team Awards Banquet. Additionally, the Chapter provided each participant with the book “By My Brother’s Side” written by National Football League players, Tiki and Ronde Barber.
21. Confronting the Achievement Gap Forum. The Western Reserve (OH) and The Cleveland Chapters of The Links, Incorporated partnered with The Kettering Foundation to present a public forum focused on Confronting the Achievement Gap. This Education Linkages Signature Project brought together over 125 educators, parents, students and community stakeholders to collectively raise the level of discussion on this critical issue in our community. Sponsors included Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland, Alcoa Cleveland Works, Pearson Curriculum Group, Cuyahoga Community College, and the Washington Koen Media.
22. Achieving the Dream, Incorporated (ATD) is a multi-year national initiative between ATD and The Links, Incorporated designed to ensure the success of students who attend community colleges. ATD is particularly concerned with student groups that traditionally have faced significant barriers to success, i.e., students of color and those from low-income families. The Western Reserve (OH) and Cleveland Chapters of The Links, Incorporated partnered with Cuyahoga Community College and implemented a year-long mentoring program for first generation students to help them acclimate to college life.
23. Cleveland Alumnae Chapter of Spelman College Scholarship Luncheon. The chapter donated $1,000 so that ten students plus their parents could participate in the event, which was held May 3, 2014. The students (and their parents) could see other young women like themselves going to college and becoming successful.
24. Heir-o-Link, Jillian Wilkerson’s Olivet Institutional Baptist Church Literacy Library. When Heir-O-Link Jillian Wilkerson was a Junior at Hawken School, she had an idea of how she could impact the achievement gap by giving African American youth access to books and encouraging them to experience the joy of reading. She sought donations of new or gently used books, on subjects such as religion and the experiences of African-Americans, for youth through age 18. She also wanted the classics in the collection, along with books that adults could read to children. The library would also be a resource for Olivet’s afterschool tutoring program. In March 2015, the Western Reserve (OH) Chapter donated $1,000 to support Jillian’s vision of a literacy library for youth by purchasing books; chapter members also donated books. As of March 8, 2015, she had collected over 500 books and monetary contributions.
25. Delta Teacher Efficacy Campaign (DTEC) “A Call to Action.” On October 24, 2015, members of the Western Reserve (OH) Chapter joined the Greater Cleveland Alumnae Chapter of The Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated and other community leaders for a town hall meeting about enhancing the effectiveness and efficacy of OUR classroom teachers. The most important factor in a student’s success is the person standing in front of the classroom. Teachers Believing = Students Achieving. Lessons learned from this symposium will be shared with the Growing Leaders during a visioning session on Greatness.
HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES FACET was established in response to the chronic health disparities that persist in our communities and result in the decreased life expectancy of African-Americans. The mission of the Health and Human Services facet is to promote and facilitate programs that support the maintenance of good health and the elimination of chronic health disparities in communities of color through education, health advocacy, and optimal utilization of health resources. Community education about health risks is crucial and The Links, Incorporated can play a significant role in providing it.
26. Project Walking Fete: Make Health a Habit, an annual walk-a-thon for hunger which similarly took place in over 40 states, the District of Columbia; Nassau, Bahamas; and Frankfort, Germany. Proceeds benefited local charities.
27. Project Walking Fete: Make Health a Habit! Poster Art Contest was created in conjunction with The Links, Incorporated’s National Walk-A-Thon to expand our health message to include healthy lifestyle choices. Western Reserve (OH) Chapter partnered with George Washington Carver Elementary School students for the poster contest and fun exercise lessons with Dr. Rita Beckford who showed the students easy exercises they could do at home based on her video, “At Home with Dr. B.” Our alumna members were the judges for the art contest.
28. Project Lifesaver, a successful pilot program to educate African American women about the importance of early screening and detection of breast and cervical cancer, done in partnership with the Cleveland Foundation; Minority Women with Breast Cancer Uniting; the Cleveland Health Department; Cuyahoga County Metropolitan Health Center, and University Hospitals of Cleveland. The chapter also spearheaded the Northeast Ohio survivor’s Tea in collaboration with The Cleveland Clinic.
29. Diabetes Awareness Sunday, funded with a gift from The Links Foundation, Incorporated, this collaboration between The Western Reserve (OH) and The Cleveland Chapters of The Links, Incorporated and the Lennon Diabetes Center at Huron Road Hospital (a Cleveland Clinic Hospital) provided literature to several Cleveland area churches and other religious institutions on the risks and management of diabetes in the African American community.
30. Project H.E.A.L. (Health, Education & Active Learning) is a multi-level, education initiative that teaches girls of African descent to analyze, evaluate and make healthy lifestyle choices and empowers them with the knowledge, skills and opportunities to become active health advocates for policy changes in their schools, families and neighborhoods. The Western Reserve (OH) and the Cleveland Chapters of The Links, Incorporated partnered with the H.E.A.L. Academy and the B.E.T. Foundation, Inc. to bring the two day Fit, Flourishing & Fly Girls Empowerment Summit to over 400 girls and their parents in the Greater Cleveland area. The Summit exposed girls to educational workshops on nutrition, body image/self-esteem, peer pressure/violence prevention, community advocacy, leadership development and reproductive health. The summit also included a parent’s track that addressed the topics covered in the girls’ track. The focus was to increase communication between child and parent.
31. Linkages to Life: Organ, Tissue and Bone Marrow Donation Awareness Program, designed to educate the African-American community about the importance of and need for organ, tissue, and bone marrow donation. This initiative was conducted in partnership with the local faith-based community and civic organizations.
32. My Sister’s Keeper, a partnership with Seidman Cancer Center to develop a sisterhood between Western Reserve (OH) Chapter members and outward bound women who are undergoing treatment for a major illness. The objective of the partnership is to equip women with life skills to help them navigate through the health care system, utilize the resources available to them and to provide monetary and emotional support during this challenging time in their lives. This project is ongoing and will include nutritional and healthy lifestyle informational workshops and partnering with a health coach.
33. Mound STEM School Urban Learning Garden. During the 2014-2015 academic year, Western Reserve (OH) Chapter established a sustainable signature urban learning garden as an after-school program at Mound STEM School (Mound) and provided garden-based educational programming to 15 enrolled students. Mound is a Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) K-8 school located in Cleveland’s Broadway/Slavic Village community. We forged a strong partnership with the Cleveland Botanical Garden (CBG) to develop the garden under its Cleveland School Garden Partnerships Initiative and lead curriculum delivery through Green Corps. Our garden consisted of above-ground beds growing a range of edible seasonal crops (e.g., carrots, radishes, mesclun, kale, spinach, lettuce) and some decorative flowers. The curriculum also contained lessons and activities, which connected with STEM principles and included a significant nutrition, health and wellness lifestyle component. Before and after several sessions, the students were tested to determine whether they had experienced an increase in knowledge and awareness of nutrition and healthy eating. In general, knowledge of fruits and vegetables increased by 50%. According to student feedback, they decreased their intake of junk food. More importantly, the garden at Mound STEM School is sustainable; Mound will maintain it with help from CBG’s Green Corp
34. A new transformational program – Growing Leaders — sprung from the seeds that were planted in the 2014-2015 Mound STEM School Urban Learning Garden program. Leveraging our strong partnership with the Cleveland Botanical Garden, Western Reserve (OH) Chapter committed to a two-year pilot with the Green Corps program for the Growing Leaders transformational program, which began October 2015. Each month, the two-hour session highlights “soft skills” to help the participant matriculate from adolescence to adulthood. Also, each student received a Fitbit device to reinforce healthy lifestyle behaviors. The first cohort (2015-2016 academic year) included eight young women aged 15-18 – five of whom graduated from high school; the second cohort (2016-2017 academic year) includes three returning students plus five new students. Due to the generous support from our sponsors and members, we have invested $40,000 in this two-year program. At the 2017 Central Area Conference, the Growing Leaders Transformational Program received the Health and Human Services Facet 1st place award.
35. HIV/AIDS Awareness Umbrella Program. African Americans represent approximately 12% of the total US population, yet they account for 44% of all new HIV infections. Western Reserve (OH) Chapter is partnering with Recovery Resources and other local institutions to increase awareness about HIV/AIDS disease and HIV testing in the Greater Cleveland area. In July 2015, the CDC awarded a five-year, $4 million grant to the Cuyahoga County High Impact HIV Prevention (CCHIHP) to implement evidence-based interventions designed to impact HIV prevention by reducing high-risk behaviors among young (ages 13-29) African American males. The CCHIHP collaborative consists of Recovery Resources (the project lead’s agency and fiscal agent), Care Alliance Health Center and Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio. We have committed up to $75,000 over the next five years to support the CCHIHP’s HIV outreach and prevention efforts. In 2016, as part of our Growing Leaders program, the Chapter hosted two HIV/AIDS awareness symposiums featuring noted experts to facilitate intergenerational dialogue – an initial step in demystifying HIV/AIDS in the African American community.
Umbrella programming integrates program elements from all five facets, with one facet serving as the lead. The costs for both umbrella programs were funded entirely with contributions and donations from our corporate and community sponsors.
The Western Reserve (OH) Chapter created a multi-faceted music and cultural arts program called Bridging the Gap and Making a Difference…through Music and Cultural Arts to benefit youth in the Greater Cleveland area. Services to Youth premiered the launch of the umbrella program with a concert, An Evening with the SPHINX Alumni String Quartet, the Greater Cleveland area premiere concert of nationally renowned award winning musicians from the prestigious Sphinx Competition for Black and Latino String Players, presented in collaboration with Olivet Institutional Baptist Church. National Trends and Services presented an intensive one week in-school literacy residency program to 5,000 high school students, called “Literature to Life©,” a one-woman stage production of Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. International Trends and Services introduced “Living Rhythms,” to elementary children ages 6-14, an interactive curriculum based music program that traced the journey of African rhythms to Cuba, Brazil and the United States. The Arts, the lead facet, sponsored the Sutphen School of Music Summer Music Experience, a five-week program targeting 75 children in underserved urban areas aged 8 to 14 to introduce them to the variety of forms in which music is expressed in the natural world and as a product of artistic creation. This multi-faceted program included collaborations with Olivet Institutional Baptist Church, The American Place Theatre of New York City, and Roots of American Music. We also partnered with The Sutphen School of Music, The Friends of the Sutphen School of Music, George Washington Carver Elementary School, the East Cleveland YWCA of Cleveland and The Cleveland Public School District. This program received a “Special Recognition” Award at The Links, Incorporated 2005 Central Area Conference.
From 2008 through 2014, we partnered with the faculty and parents of the Warner Girls Leadership Academy, one of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s single gender schools. The partnership focused on leadership development and academic enrichment. During this six-year period, we budgeted over $60,000 to support this Umbrella program. Over that period, we tutored young girls, assisting the school in improving its standing on the Ohio Achievement tests. We led forums engaging parents and grandparents in dialogue about the unique challenges of raising girls in an urban environment. We established pen pal relationships between the Warner Wildflowers and students at St. Jude’s Academy in Uganda, as a means of connecting our Wildflowers and the Ugandan students to the global village and enhancing their understanding of the world beyond their neighborhoods and villages. We created a Teacher’s Resource Library, making available books and resource tools that supported teachers in having state-of-the-art materials to support instruction. We commissioned renowned Cleveland artist Anna Arnold to create an iconic mural at the school’s entrance. This mural, greeting the girls each morning, shows a beautiful field of multi-colored flowers depicting the multi-talented and multi-faceted young girls of Warner. As the culmination of our partnership with Warner, in May, 2014, we donated $10,000 to purchase for the Wildflowers 60 Kindle PaperWhite eReaders — each loaded with four books. The purpose of the Kindles was to introduce 4th and 5th graders to technology and enhance their reading experience. On November 21, 2014, the Warner Wildflowers, Head of School and Parents Organization recognized the Western Reserve [OH] Chapter members at an Appreciation Breakfast. Following breakfast, there was a short program. Eight Warner Wildflowers shared their personal remarks and appreciation for the Kindles, the Links, and everything we have done at the school since its inception. One fifth grader remarked, “The Kindles have helped me be a better reader because if I don’t know a word, I can press on it and find out what it means.” A fourth grader added, “These Kindles help us want to read more and they make reading more exciting for us. Thank the Links for helping us grow.” In February, 2016, the Services to Youth Facet committed to donate $1000 to Warner Girls Leadership Academy to purchase more eBooks for the Kindles.