By Kelly Twedell
Meet the Fayetteville Chapter of The Links, Incorporated
The Links, Incorporated, is one of the oldest and largest volunteer service organizations of women of color.
That’s true both nationally – the national organization was founded in 1946 – and locally. The 32nd chapter of The Links, Inc., was established in Fayetteville in 1951.
Today, the Fayetteville chapter is 61 women strong, including 43 active members and 18 alumnae, each with at least 30 years of service.
And the national organization is headed by a Fayetteville native, Kimberly Jeffries Leonard, who grew up watching her mother Marye Jeffries’ participation with the local chapter of The Links.
The Links is a story of friendship and service to the community, both locally and globally, with a focus on issues and needs in the area of education, youth, health, humanity, the arts and more. Committed to enriching, sustaining and ensuring the cultural and economic survival of African-Americans and others of African ancestry, the organization has 289 chapters in 41 states, as well as the District of Columbia and the Bahamas. Members contribute more than 500,000 documented hours of community service annually.
“Exposing our youth to cultural enrichment through the fine arts is a favorite area of service of mine,” said Cindy White, the current president of the local chapter of The Links. “Some of the service projects that positively affected youth in Cumberland County are Boys & Girls Club, NATAI Girls, and Great Oaks.”
White said The Links provides her a way to address pressing needs in the community and effect change. In volunteering, she said she is following the example of her servant leader parents, who were actively involved in the community and who taught her to look at situations and see how she could help to improve them.
Encouraging other young professionals with families to get involved, White said, “Volunteering allows you to connect to your community and make it a better place to raise your family even if it is just one small thing, like providing a senior neighbor with a meal.”
Cumberland County District Court Judge Toni King is a newer member of The Links.
“These ladies are the benchmark of excellence in personal and collective achievements,” she said. “The reputation as a group of classy and educated women is precedent when speaking of a Link but they’re also a group that will get in the trenches to effectuate change. They walk what they talk and just may happen to be doing it in Louboutins. They’ve raised the standard for us all.
Links members have a particular interest in encouraging young people, especially those who may be struggling with the various trials of life. “Persevere consistently and your present situation is not your conclusion,” White often advises the next generation.
Amaya, a local junior high school student, lives in a single-parent home. She first connected with The Links at an event where the organization’s members brought gifts and encouragement to female students. They talked to them about going to college and staying around positive influences as they navigate life’s challenges in school and at home.
“Being around the ladies helped to think about setting goals for myself and having the support and to believe in myself to achieve them,” Amaya said. “One day I hope to become a nurse to help others.”
The power of being around such role models was borne out on June 29 when Dr. Kimberly Jeffries Leonard was elected the 17th president of the national organization. Leonard, a native of Fayetteville and graduate of both Reid Ross High School and Fayetteville State University, grew up accompanying her mother to Links events in Fayetteville. Twenty-two years ago, she joined the Links chapter in Arlington, Virginia, and became involved in the national organization, serving in positions of increasing responsibility. Jeffries Leonard, who holds a Ph.D. in psychology and a master of science degree, has a broad background in public health, including expertise in minority health and behavioral health programs, policies and legislation.
The Links, Inc., has a steadfast dedication to serving others and improving the quality of life for all in Fayetteville. The group’s next fundraiser is a Treasure Our Chest Breast Cancer Walk 3K on Saturday, September 22. On February 2 of next year, the group will hold its annual Friendship Luncheon at the Iron Mike Conference Center at Fort Bragg.
“The friendships formed are truly special,” King said. “It is a sisterhood that really is grounded in friendship and love for community. Every lady brings her own successes and accolades in her own right but it’s all placed to the wayside and we link resources and efforts to impact lives in a meaningful way.”
For more information, visit fayettevillenclinks.org.