On March 30, 1950, the Cincinnati Chapter of Links became the 17th chapter inducted into the Links Chain of Friendship. The charter members were friends and professional women who understood the need to assume civic, cultural and social responsibilities in their community. These founding members were Vivian Beamon, Johnnie Mae Berry, Reber Cann, Margaret Clarke, Ethel Caliman Deal, Vera Edwards, Camille Hood, Ruth Hubbard, Evelyn Jones, Laura Lovelace, Odessa Simms, and Mary Weatherly.
The Cincinnati Chapter was fully engaged in national endeavors from its inception. Margaret Clarke, a co-chairperson of the national membership committee, created the format for the Initiation Service. Vivian Beamon became the Fourth National President and is credited with developing the concept of the Links Foundation and the adoption of Fine Arts as a programmatic focus. Link Margaret Hough became the first National Director of the Arts. The chapter established an exemplary record of philanthropy both locally and internationally. The initial “Card Party” event, in the 1950’s, raised funds for Camp Joy, the first integrated camp for children in Cincinnati. For nearly 45 years, the couture Ebony Fashion Fair was presented. Proceeds were given to community service agencies and for collegiate scholarships. Additionally, the chapter is most proud of its singular effort to build the first Links School in Africa.
Signature programs have left an indelible impact upon Cincinnati. The most notable of the educational and enrichment programs was the College Jamboree and career conference which lasted fifteen years. Repeated student participation resulted in significant attitudinal and behavioral changes. Some became community leaders. Sponsored lectures by Hale Woodruff and David Driskell to black youth, were followed by Expo ’70 with students exhibiting their art. Subsequently, Focus ’88 was a huge event as professional artists from around the country displayed their works. Proceeds benefited Links programming. The chapter later initiated the Young Achievers umbrella project which offered academic course work and cultural field trips. It continued for four years. In 2003, the ongoing “award winning” Youth Docent Program was designed and implemented for the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, The Youth Docent Program transforms high school students into Freedom Center docents through a nine-month rigorous process that develops leadership, presentation, communication and critical thinking skills by studying the history of slavery in America. This program is a continued focus.
Over the years, other programs of national and local importance were begun. The Linked to Life program, a Sickle Cell Anemia initiative, was started with Children’s Hospital. It provides resources for physicians to do research and care for children with this disease. Links have also targeted Bond Hill Academy, a school where the needs are great. Concurrent projects throughout the whole school such as: Adopt A Class, with its associated cultural and social events, tutoring with interactive science exposure (COSI) project, Pen Pal activities, and an annual Health Fair with many activities. All of the in-school programs are designed to motivate youth toward higher education, the development of self esteem and the protection of their health.
Our current focus in on two programs: The Youth Docent Program mentioned above and our newer program The Links Leadership Academy for Girls housed at Cincinnati Public Schools’ Board of Education. The Links Leadership Academy for Girls is a multi-year experience. It is designed to empower African American teenage girls with the skills to address issues such as confidence and self esteem, anti-bullying, leadership skills, college and career planning, health and wellness and financial literacy. Through these unique programs our ultimate goal is to provide like changing opportunities that will enhance the futures of our young participants.
Each year, the Cincinnati Chapter renews its commitment to address needs in the community remaining Linked in Friendship and Connected in Service.