THE LINKS INCORPORATED, JACKSONVILLE CHAPTER LOCAL HISTORY
On November 12, 1966, the Jacksonville Chapter of The Links, Incorporated was officially installed. As it embarked upon its journey of friendship and service, the cumulative efforts from 1966 to now have resulted in a legacy of transformational programming, dedicated service and leadership in the Jacksonville community. The Charter Members of the Jacksonville Chapter were Mary Betsch, Glorya Brooks, Miriam Burney, Bessie Canty, Elizabeth Downing, Alethia Gibbs, Kate Graves, Lois Iszard, Mary Jones, Joyce Lawson, Elinor Littlejohn, Carolyn Miller, Meltonia McGriff, Sara Stewart and Sadie Tillis. The Chartering President was Elinor Littlejohn. Maude Reid, the Southern Area Director and the Southern Area officers provided guidance to the club in preparation of its chartering. Dollie Deselle Adams, National President, installed the Southern Area’s 27th chapter. The Tallahassee Chapter of The Links, Incorporated was the Sponsoring Chapter. The first chapter officers were: Elinor Littlejohn (President), Lois Iszard (Vice President) Bessie Canty (Recording Secretary) Sara Steward (Financial Secretary) and Sadie Tillis (Treasurer). Elinor Littlejohn was also the organizer of the club that became the Jacksonville Chapter.
Today as from the beginning, the Jacksonville Chapter is comprised of dedicated and distinguished women who believe in Friendship and Service. The chapter has been guided by its unwavering commitment toward improving the quality of life in our community – especially for those of African Ancestry through educational, civic and intercultural activities/programming. These efforts are primarily focused on the Jacksonville Community. However, the chapter has also provided funding and gifts far beyond our shores.
During the past five decades succeeding presidents have taken the helm and continued the commitment to enrich the lives of others in the Jacksonville community. This commitment is most evident in the chapter’s award-winning Umbrella Program, Girls Empowered and Motivated to Succeed, known by the acronym GEMS! The Jacksonville Chapter partnered with the New Town Success Zone (established in 2005) to establish a program at one of the underserved schools in the zone, Eugene Butler Middle School.
For more than six years the chapter partnered with the School Advisory Council (SAC) and the Boys & Girls (BOLD) after school program to develop a weekly program addressing social, health and educational issues impacting sixth-grade girls. This program was highly successful and proved to be transformational for these students. It was so successful that the chapter received the National FIRST PLACE Award for Umbrella Programming, 2012-2014 program year!
In addition to program events, the Jacksonville Chapter has sponsored the following community fundraisers that have generated significant contributions to local community agencies: The United Negro College Fund, Boy Scouts Camper-ship, Johnson Branch of YMCA, Eugene Butler Middle School (2006-2015) and Edward Waters College along with other local organizations are recipients of collective donations of more than $150,000 over the 50 plus years of The Jacksonville Chapter’s existence.
Through the years the chapter has also hosted the following Fund Raisers:
• Formal Masquerade Ball to benefit Sickle Cell Anemia Foundation (1981)
• White Rose Brunch honoring local Black citizens of achievement (1983)
• Night on The Annabel Lee to benefit Sickle Cell Foundation (1986)
• Emerald Jazz Brunch at The Omni (2000)
• Western Glitz / Gala – more than 15 years