As a volunteer service organization, the Norfolk (VA) Chapter of The Links, Incorporated is a paragon for social change. It is part of an international civic organization of accomplished women linked in friendship and service that positively impacts outcomes affecting life in the Norfolk City community and the world.
Our core values center on a commitment to service that targets the needs of persons of African ancestry. The foundation of the Norfolk (VA) Chapter of The Links, Incorporated serves to build, refine and expand creative, focused and effective programming. Our pillars dictate that we build upon the strengths of our people, as a means of better addressing their needs, through providing services which positively impact outcomes affecting our communities and the world.
In June 1949, the Philadelphia chapter hosted a National Assembly, the first meeting of all 14 chapters which comprised the nucleus of The Links. The Lynchburg Chapter was established in 1950.
The late Hortense Tucker Braswell of Lynchburg, formerly of Norfolk, Virginia, met with Emily Alston, Margaret Lofton, Eva Moore, Geraldine Rogers, and Gladys Whitfield early in 1951 to discuss the establishment of a Norfolk Chapter.
Margaret Lofton assumed the leadership role. She contacted friends in Pittsburgh who were officers in The Links, and proceeded to implement national guidelines for chapter establishment. In February 1952, the Norfolk Chapter of The Links, Inc., sponsored by Lynchburg, Virginia, was established with fifteen charter members and Margaret Lofton as organizer.
Link Lottie Dinkins, National Vice President performed the formal installation service.
The charter members were:
Emily Alston, Kathryn Bibbins, Erma Brown, Alice Christopher, Margaret Lofton, Vivian Mason, Eva Moore, Annette H. Richter, Geraldine Rogers, Ocie Shields, Gladys Whitfield, Ada Williamson, Josephine Young, Marguerite Young, Undine Young
Immediately following the chartering, Norfolk Links began setting their agenda to focus upon Services to Youth in the African-American community. One of their first projects was to assist in providing enrichment experiences for the Quest Club, academically gifted students at the former Jacox Junior High School.
These experiences included trips to historical sites in Virginia and in Washington, D.C., attendance at concerts, and trips to art centers and museums in Virginia and D.C. A $1000 Memorial Scholarship was established to assist a worthy female student to pursue higher education at the school of her choice. The NAACP and Urban League received annual contributions from the Norfolk Chapter. Life membership with NAACP was an early project.
As years moved on, the theme of art was included to expand the cultural horizons of our youth. In the spring of 1971, the Norfolk Links presented A. B. Jackson, a renowned black artist and a professor at Old Dominion University, with an exhibit of his works. This was Jackson's first public presentation. As a result of the community's enthusiastic financial support, the A. B. Jackson Art Scholarship was established at Norfolk State University in the fall of 1971. In 1975, Norfolk Links received the Eastern Area's Annual Award for the Most Outstanding Local Programs. During that year, the chapter featured workshops on drug abuse showing the works of local artists and highlighting the works of A.B. Jackson.
We continue the legacy by awarding a scholarship in honor of A.B. Jackson to a rising fine arts graduate of Norfolk State University.
A concern for health in the African-American community as it related to the .. Silent Killer .. prompted the Norfolk Links to inaugurate the practice of providing free blood pressure screenings (the first of its kind in Norfolk) and providing referrals to one's own physician when results directed this procedure. The early screenings were conducted at Giant Market on Campostella Road over a two and a half day period with the assistance of Norfolk Community Hospital's physicians and nurses. This project was an annual event of the National Trends and Services Facet.
Beginning in 1983, the Norfolk Chapter, as a focus for The Arts Facet, began contributing to the Norfolk Young Audiences of Virginia, a program of concerts and musical workshops, in order to expose more schools with high African American population to this cultural enrichment.
In April, 1983, the Norfolk links served as the hostess chapter for the Eastern Area Conference. The Governor of Virginia, Charles Robb, was our guest at the public reception. More than 500 were in attendance.
In an effort to motivate our youth to aspire to academic excellence, the Norfolk Links, beginning in 1985, recognized those African-American youth in the area who made local scholastic teams, and those who graduated as honor students from high school. Both students and parents are included in this recognition known as Salute to Scholastic Stars.
In 1986-87 school year, Superintendent Gene Carter was so impressed with our efforts that he recommended funds be included in the school budget to expand the experience to all 5th and 6th grade students in Norfolk Public Schools. This program was in the district’s budget for over sixteen years.
The National Trends and Services Facet expressed our concern for teen-age pregnancies among African-American youth. We co-sponsored with the Junior League of Norfolk and Virginia Beach the appearance of Oprah Winfrey at the Center Theater in June 1987, where she spoke on "Self-Esteem and Sexuality."
Following Oprah's appearance, we embarked upon a three-year co-op program with the Junior League, targeted at reducing teen-age pregnancies among our youth in the Norfolk area.
The co-op program conducted workshops entitled "Human Sexuality and Related Areas” that gave the necessary information and skills.
These workshops helped parents effectively communicate with their children on sexuality.
In 1986, the Norfolk Links implemented a project that presented to the public positive images of community leaders who were African-American role models for our youth.
This project was known as the Martin Luther King Salute Program which was held annually for nearly two decades and extended through Black History Month.
During that period, photographs of African-American community leaders were placed on display in the lobby of The New Atlantic National Bank where school children were brought to view the subjects, read resumes of their lives and write about them when they returned to the classroom.
The Norfolk Links sponsors an annual fundraiser to provide funding for and to achieve and maintain our public service commitments. The chapter has hosted many outstanding successful projects that became signature events in the Hampton Roads area, namely the “Spring Fling” and “The Gentlemen Who Cook.” Most recently, the chapter held a fundraiser and silent auction entitled, “Emeralds and Pearls.”
In September 2006, the Norfolk Links initiated its Umbrella Program entitled Effecting Positive Changes: Project TLC (The Links Care) in support of the national theme, “The Links Care (TLC).” Our focus is on consistently demonstrating “TLC” by Effecting Positive Changes in the Norfolk City Community through comprehensive and effectual programming.
The Services to Youth Facet serves as the lead facet in the coordination, participation and implementation of services and programs for youth in the community. All of the facets support umbrella programming by offering programming that has a significant impact in the community through coordinated, well planned activities that serve targeted youth and other groups.