For forty-seven years, the San Fernando Valley (CA) Chapter of The Links, Incorporated has bonded in friendship and service and consistently worked to create a positive impact on the local, national and global communities. The chapter was organized by Link Annette Williams and chartered on May 9, 1973 by Western Area Director, the late Link Julia Smith.
Link Annette Williams, who had been a member of the Pasadena/Altadena Chapter of the Links, Incorporated, was interested in starting a chapter closer to her home once she moved to the San Fernando Valley. Beginning in 1970, the group met in her home for three years and despite the difficulty of the task, the interest group persevered leading to its eventual chartering in 1973. They desired to be a collective voice committed to improving the quality of life for all.
The 11 charter members were Lestrita Boardman, Enola Burrell, Angelica Calhoun, Kathy Williams Goldberg, Gloria Larkin, Maryanne Llorens, Billy Newcomb, Leatrice Pride, Ruby Robertson, Nettie Washington and Annette Williams. Link Leatrice Pride was elected as the first chapter president. After years of service in leadership at the chapter level, she became National Treasurer.
The chapter’s first major health project was educating the community about the cause, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of sickle cell anemia and available funding resources. In more recent years, the chapter sews and distributes heart surgery pillows for recovering cardiac patients at the various local hospitals in the San Fernando Valley, especially since heart disease disproportionately impacts African Americans.
The chapter has systematically attacked the injustices of racism and classism. One of the chapter’s first major service projects was to address the issue of housing discrimination that existed in the San Fernando Valley in the 1970s. Not to ignore the problem of poverty in the Valley, the chapter has annually assisted in distributing Thanksgiving meal baskets to families in need.
Many successful fundraisers have allowed the chapter to raise several hundred thousand dollars to foster academic achievement of the youth in our community and facilitate their scholarly pursuits. The chapter’s signature fundraiser, the “Top Hat” was a means of not only raising funds for programming, but also recognizing the achievements of numerous African American trailblazers in the areas of arts, business, communications, dance, film, government, medicine, musics and sports. Previous luminaries include The Honorable Colin Powell, Mr. Muhammad Ali, The Honorable Kweisi Mfume, Mr. Sidney Poitier, The Honorable Ronald H. Brown, Mr. Tavis Smiley, Ms. Iris Rideau, Dr. Keith Black, Mrs. Tisha Campbell-Martin, Mrs. Sonia Norwood, Ms. Laurieann Gibson, and Mr. Danny Bakewell. To date, we have awarded over $700,000 in scholarships to more than 200 deserving African American students to attend colleges and universities of their choice. Annually, since 2017, we host a mini-fundraiser to support our scholarship program. Some of our events have included Mardi Gras themed soirées and An Evening with April Ryan (White House correspondent and CNN political analyst).
Over the years, the San Fernando Valley Links has contributed thousands of community service hours to chapter programs that focus on education, cultural enrichment, health and wellness, economic empowerment and civic involvement. Programs from vision and dental screenings, tutorial programs in local schools, voter registration drives to educate and mobilize the community, remodeling the child abuse unit at the Van Nuys Division of the LAPD to serving as surrogates and role models for at-risk youth.
There have been numerous chapter projects addressing the arts: theater parties, Project Walking Fete, and thousands of dollars given in scholarships for African American youth to participate in local music, dance and art classes. Through our documentary series, the chapter has highlighted the work of African American writers and producers, and effectively brought members of the local community together to engage in dialogue on the pressing issues of human sex trafficking and mental health.
International projects have been given equal attention by the chapter. We sponsored a school in South Africa, organized health and wellness kits for students in Haiti, contributed to clean water processing in Haiti, supported the development of water wells, and participated in the Safe Motherhood Initiative.
The chapter has devoted attention to our youth. In 2009, the chapter launched an Umbrella Program named “Project S.E.L.F. - Cultivating Leadership through Service by Building Self-Esteem, Enrichment and Life Skills for the Future.” Through Project S.E.L.F., the chapter fosters the growth and development of young people from diverse backgrounds, through cultivating leadership, strengthening academic skills, self-expression, self-confidence, and self-discipline. Partnering and collaborating with community agencies, the multifaceted approach to the SFV Links’ program implementation of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math), among other national initiatives, formulated an award winning program.
In 2018, the San Fernando Valley (CA) Chapter of The Links, Incorporated was awarded the Ralph Bunche Community Award from the NAACP San Fernando Valley branch for over 40 years of service to the San Fernando Valley community.