Detroit Chapter of The Links making a difference through friendship, service

Nonprofit organization works to give back to Detroit community

A powerful group of women has been quietly working for seven decades to give back to the Detroit community. The Links, Inc. is an international nonprofit service organization. Its Detroit chapter celebrated 70 years of sisterhood and service last year. Local 4 spoke with members of The Links as we continue to celebrate Women’s History Month. Founded in 1951, the Detroit Chapter of The Links was started by a group of women who were friends. Many of them were married to influential men.

DETROIT – A powerful group of women has been quietly working for seven decades to give back to the Detroit community.

The Links, Inc. is an international nonprofit service organization. Its Detroit chapter celebrated 70 years of sisterhood and service last year. Local 4 spoke with members of The Links as we continue to celebrate Women’s History Month.

Founded in 1951, the Detroit Chapter of The Links was started by a group of women who were friends. Many of them were married to influential men.

Today, the organization has evolved into a group of women who are also friends, but now, they’re influential themselves. It’s made up of teachers, doctors, lawyers and CEOs. Their goal was, and still is, to build a legacy of friendship while taking care of the community through service and volunteerism.

Denise Brooks-Williams is a senior vice president and CEO of the North Market at Henry Ford Health. She is also president of the Detroit Chapter of The Links.

“They came together initially because they really didn’t have a lot of opportunity back then, if you stop and think about it,” Brooks-Williams said. “Back during that time, to have ladies come together, in particular women of color -- I think it’s wonderful to believe 70 years later that we are still doing the same thing, which is friends committed to taking care of our community.”

The organization raises funds for a variety of charities and causes, such as the arts, services to youth, and national and international trends.

Over the last 10 years, The Links’ partnership with the Detroit Public Schools Community District’s Detroit International Academy has helped expose students at the all-women’s school to a variety of role models and career paths, as well as prep them for college.

Health and human services represent another important aspect of the organization. The group holds health fairs to raise awareness in the Black community for issues such as chronic kidney disease

“The Links try to be very relevant to what’s going on in the community, and service is something that we count,” Brooks-Williams said. “Literally, to be a Link in good standing, you must do a certain amount of service hours in one year. So, we take it very seriously.”

Retired 36th District Court Judge Miriam Martin-Clark joined The Detroit Chapter of The Links after law school in the early 80s.

“When I became a Link, it was a different organization than it is now,” Martin-Clark said. “We always had the same goals, but they’re not as focused as they are now. The Links has really become a force to be reckoned with, whereas in the early days, we were just friends getting together having fundraisers, contributing to charitable organizations and agencies. So, we always had service-minded objectives, it just wasn’t as large as it is today.”

The organization now has more than 12,000 members in more than 270 chapters around the world, including many noteworthy members, such as Vice President Kamala Harris. They describe their group as women who understand the needs of the Black community and have the influence and power to help make a difference.

“When you think about Women’s History Month and you think about The Links -- which, our motto is serving and friendship -- (we) are women who embody those two attributes,” Brooks-Williams said. “So, they enjoy the companionship of other women, and they partner with making the community a better place.”

There are 10 chapters of The Links throughout the state of Michigan, with six chapters in the Metro Detroit area.


About the Author:

Kimberly Gill joined the Local 4 News team in November 2014. She was named Personality of the Year in 2009 by the Ohio Broadcaster’s Hall of Fame. She’s also a two-time Emmy winner.