Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Roslyn Thibodeaux Goodall is a unique brand of fighter, one who often chooses opponents that are undefeated. Recently, at the African American Museum in Dallas, she organized a crowd of hundreds of women to view an advance screening of “The Alzheimer’s Project,” a four-part HBO documentary. Ms. Goodall began her fight against Alzheimer’s disease by introducing Project ALERT (Alzheimer’s Links to Education, Research & Treatment) to an extraordinary service organization she belongs to, the Links Inc.

By bringing the fight against Alzheimer’s to the Links, Ms. Goodall enlisted thousands more women just like her who choose worthy yet challenging battles, value community service and don’t know the meaning of the words “can’t” or “quit.”

The Links is an international, not-for-profit corporation established in 1946. Its membership consists of 12,000 professional women of color in 270 chapters located in 42 states, the District of Columbia and the Commonwealth of the Bahamas. It is one of the nation’s oldest and largest volunteer service organizations of extraordinary women who are committed to enriching, sustaining and ensuring the culture and economic survival of black Americans and other persons of African ancestry.

In addition to their fight against Alzheimer’s, members of the Links have made a dramatic impact on the lives of women and children all across the globe. Through numerous programs, initiatives and partnerships local chapters of the Links have raised money, promoted awareness, and provided life-saving information and supplies to people that need it most.

In January, the Links organized an inaugural reception to benefit Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Despite the competition of various events in Washington that week, more than 600 people attended the exciting start of Inauguration Week festivities that raised money for breast cancer research. The next day, members presented a check to We Feed Our People as part of the Renew America Together Initiative, Barack Obama’s and Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s call to service.

A few days later, they were recognized for their contributions and accomplishments for the betterment of society at a ceremony in Atlanta sponsored by the Trumpet Awards Foundation. They were also inducted into the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame. This distinction is reserved for those that have significantly contributed to enhancing the quality of life and augmented global society.

As the only service organization included in the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame, the footsteps from the Links Inc. are now among those of the most notable civil rights icons, including Georgia Rep. John Lewis, the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and the late Rosa Parks.

While it may seem a whirlwind of activity, it was actually a typical week for these service-oriented ladies.

Dating back to 1946, when founders Sarah Scott and Margaret Hawkins first envisioned organizing a group of women who would be committed to providing service to those less fortunate than themselves, the Links has made service the focal point of everything that they do. Even at each of its conferences and conventions, in the true spirit of giving back, members participate in a community service project.

Members of the Links contribute more than 500,000 documented hours of community service annually. Furthermore, the Links Foundation has contributed at least $24 million to charitable causes since its founding.

Its members also raised money to fund the pedestal for the Sojourner Truth bust in the U.S. Capitol.

The Links is a world-class organization in which service, friendship and leadership are paramount. Gwendolyn Lee, the national president, has pointed out that “members are newsmakers, role models, mentors, activists and volunteers who work toward the realization of making the name ‘Links’ not only a chain of friendship, but also a chain of purposeful service.”

Corporations, organizations and associations often seek out the Links to partner with on a variety of causes. Because the Links has proved it gets things done, its endorsement is a valuable one. Its partnership efforts have included the Heart Truth national campaign to increase women’s awareness of heart disease and its dangers. Another partner is the National Cares Mentoring Movement to address the critical issues that prevent youths from reaching their full potential.

The Links is testimony for those who have dedicated themselves to human progress. Their causes, like the one begun by Roslyn Thibodeaux Goodall, will progress and individuals and communities will be strengthened to meet the next challenge placed before them.

• Christine Rene is a writer living in Falls Church.

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