In 2010, The Columbia Chapter of The Links Inc., adopted Links to a Healthy Lifestyle. This initiative serves to widen the chapter’s influence as a catalyst for bringing together leaders and organizations to resolve community health concerns, in particular childhood obesity. The Columbia Chapter was recently recognized as developing an effective pilot childhood obesity prevention program using the Kid’s Edition Curriculum which was developed by the Southern Area of The Links Incorporated’s Commission on Childhood Obesity Prevention in collaboration with the Morehouse School of Medicine. Through a grant from the Southern Area Commission on Childhood Obesity, the Columbia Chapter is working to improve health and physical activity habits of 5th grade students at Edward E. Taylor Elementary School in Richland School District 1.
In 2010, The Columbia Chapter invited the Nassau, Bahamas Chapter of The Links, Inc. to engage in a collaborative alliance to reduce childhood obesity and promote healthy living. The technology staff at SC Richland School District 1 and the Ministry of Education in the Bahamas assisted both chapters in providing “real time” Webinars for students in Columbia and Nassau. SCETV also served as a key resource for this program. These webinars enabled students to talk with and learn from each other as well as become acquainted with healthy fruits and vegetables grown in each country. The International Trends facet also participated in sending “MAAMA KITS” (kits of basic living and first aid essentials) to Haiti to assist mothers and expectant mothers affected by the devastating earthquake.
The chapter serves the Anna Boyd School (District 2) through the after-school program, L.I.N.K.S (Learning Initiative Navigating Knowledge for Success). The Services to Youth Facet recently funded a community garden at the school so students could grow and harvest vegetables. Five plots on the playground were successfully cultivated, harvested and shared with neighborhood residents. Through the program, Anna Boyd students benefited from individualized gardening lessons, nutrition training and what’s involved with being good community citizens and neighbors. Our chapter partnered with a Master Gardener who has volunteered to guide the effort along with other Facet volunteers who come in weekly to engage the students in discussions on the benefits of eating healthy and exercising.
The Columbia chapter also awards up to three scholarships per year to qualifying college applicants through its LinksScholars program. You can download a LinksScholars Program application at http://www.yourfoundation.org/students/scholarships.aspx.
With the current decline in the economy, the Columbia Chapter launched a Mini Grants for Teachers program in Richland School Districts I and II to assist with funds to implement field trips, special projects, and supplies (five $200 awards were made the first year). In its second year, the grant program focused on Linking Healthy Lifestyles, with applicants concentrating on activities that promote healthy eating and lifestyle choices for students. Students in the “Say No to Drugs Program” at the E. E. Taylor Elementary School participated in the Links to a Healthy Lifestyle – Reducing Childhood Obesity collaboration with the Nassau, Bahamas Chapter. As part of the program students in both locations participated in the “WASH YOUR HANDS” AND “WALKING FOR YOUR HEALTH” initiatives. In 2008, over 400 students from E.E. Taylor pledged to take the American Heart Association/LINKS HEALTHY CHALLENGE.
The Columbia Chapter partnered with Columbia City Mayor and the Columbia City Council to participate in “One Book, One Columbia”, a community reading initiative. The featured book was “Having Our Say” by the Delaney Sisters. This book tells the true story of two remarkable women from NC who lived to be 105 and 103 years old. Our Chapter connected with local schools and hosted various events to promote the initiative and discuss the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle. Reading and discussing portions of the book were instrumental in demonstrating how leading a healthy lifestyle contributed to the long and fulfilling lives of the Delaney sisters. The Chapter also participated in an Obesity Photography Project at Benedict College featuring lower body shots of overweight volunteers who were trying to lose weight. Volunteers were recruited and agreed to participate in order to focus on the impact that being overweight can have on the body. Self-esteem was also an important focal point.
The Chapter supported SC HB 3297, a bill banning high-sugar, high-fat foods from being sold to South Carolina students during the school day. The legislation is aimed at curbing childhood obesity in a state with one of the nation’s highest rates of overweight and obese youth. A recent survey was released by the SC State Education Department showing one in six high school students in the state are obese. Sponsors of the bill emphasize that giving students only healthy options could save lives and money. The rules apply to all food sold in cafeterias, vending machines and school stores. Fundraising sales by students and parent groups are exempt. Through the LINKAGES TO LIFE initiative, The Columbia Chapter sponsored a Blood Cell and Marrow donor program to find a match for any patient in on the registry. One of our Link Sister’s sons is among those who were helped by this program.
All South Carolina Link Chapters provide funding for this annual event and participation has been excellent! This year all South Carolina gubernatorial candidates were invited to discuss their platforms and positions on issues that matter to the Links and surrounding communities. In 2011, the legislative focus was on Childhood Obesity Prevention. In other programming, the chapter collaborated with Palmetto Health’s Women at Heart Program to sponsor a forum to address Heart Disease – the number one killer of African American women.