The Cleveland Chapter of LINKS, INC., a national black women's service organization, was founded in 1951 (five years after the national group) to promote civic, cultural and educational activities. Dubbed the "Black Junior League," Links of Cleveland celebrated its 25th anniversary in 1976 with a benefit for KARAMU HOUSE. In 1977 the CLEVELAND MUSEUM OF ART mounted "The Afro-American Tradition in Decorative Arts," an exhibit proposed and co-sponsored by Links. Curated by John Michael Vlach, the exhibit traveled to seven other cities.
Beneficiaries of Links support have included the Zelma George Shelter for Women and Children, Stopping AIDS is My Mission (SAMM), and the HEALTH MUSEUM. In 1994 the organization was a corporate sponsor for "Benin: Royal Art of Africa," an exhibition at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Their educational outreach activities have benefited the 5th and 6th grade classes at the CLEVELAND SCHOOL OF THE ARTS (through their adopt-a-school program) and high school juniors and seniors participated in Links-sponsored SAT preparation courses. Workshops on philanthropy and programs on displaced homemakers have also been important focus areas in the 1990s.
In keeping with its commitment to serving youth and promoting literacy and the arts, the Cleveland chapter of Links, Inc. launched in 2008 its umbrella project, "The Links Care" (TLC) at the Andrew J. Rickoff School in Cleveland's MOUNT PLEASANT neighborhood to improve literacy and well-being of children attending this kindergarten through eighth-grade school. In addition to donating $2,500 and 3,000 books to the school, the Links sponsored a health fair, a modern-day quilting project, and a CPR training program for students, and opened a Computer Technology Laboratory. The local chapter also donated $1,000 each to Karamu House, the Sutphen School of Music at the PHILLIS WHEATLEY ASSOCIATION, and the Bellflower Center for Prevention of Child Abuse.
Although membership in Links was by invitation only, the organization served its professional members as much as it served the larger community. Above all else, Cleveland women who made up the local chapter were committed to enriching, sustaining, and ensuring the culture and economic survival of AFRICAN AMERICANS and other persons of African ancestry. Accordingly, the Links raised funds for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), including Wilberforce University and Central State University, and collaborated with the Cleveland Clinic in launching health and wellness programs in the African-American community, including Diabetes Awareness Day.
As of 2009, the local chapter of Links, Inc. had 48 members and Sadie Winlock served as the organization's president. The Links organized their programming focus into four primary facets: Arts, National Trends, International Trends, and Services to Youth. Additional program Linkages were established in Health and Wellness, and Education.