Q&A: Velma Ritcherson on Service in Madison
As part of the Madison Metropolitan Chapter of The Links, Inc., Ritcherson sees firsthand how the historic service organization benefits the city’s African American community
PHOTO BY NOAH WILLMAN
Velma Ritcherson is a past president of The Links, Inc.
Why did you initially decide to volunteer your time to The Links, Inc.?
[I was] interested in joining a group of women linked in friendship and connected in service, with shared values, to work toward making a difference in the community.
Where are you originally from?
I am originally from Texas. My family came from Waco to Madison in 1966 after my husband, Les, was recruited by the University of Wisconsin–Madison as the first black assistant [football] coach in the UW system; [my] son Lewis was recruited in 1966 as a quarterback.
Describe the mission of The Links, Inc.
As an international women’s service organization, The Links, Inc., is committed to enriching, sustaining and ensuring the culture and economic survival of African Americans and other persons of African descent.
Why do you think it is imperative for Madison to have a Links, Inc. chapter?
As part of the Madison Metropolitan Chapter, members have the expertise and the commitment to implement necessary change by making a positive difference in ways that will galvanize our community.
What part of the Links’ mission resonates with you the most?
To work toward the realization of making the name “Links” not only a chain of friendship, but also a chain of purposeful service. Through its mission of service, Links groups internationally have contributed more than 500,000 documented hours of community service annually in their continuing efforts to strengthen their communities and the nation.
From where or whom do you draw inspiration?
Even in my senior years, I still draw inspiration from the spirit of my elders, who went through so many trials to make it possible for me to benefit from the joys and blessings of everyday life.
What are some of your greatest accomplishments?
If this is a question from a personal standpoint, family is always my number-one priority; therefore, raising two sons in a two-parent household is an accomplishment I consider a blessing. As an organizational question, the chapter has a rich twenty-eight-year history behind us, and to build upon. This history includes a wealth of experiences providing scholarships and services to Madison area youth, such as the annual “Yes I Can!” conference for eighth grade girls.
What do you think is the most important opportunity or service that The Links, Inc., has created for local youth?
Within the Services to Youth facet, our major programming effort, the chapter has touched the lives of over 13,000 African American students across the Madison metropolitan area. Through its signature education program held each spring, the chapter has awarded more than $100,000 in scholarships to college-bound African American students and has awarded U. S. Savings Bonds and bookstore gift certificates to middle school African American students. In addition, at the event the chapter annually presents approximately a thousand certificates of recognition to K–12 African American students and adult volunteers in the local school district. Community support of our major fundraiser enables the chapter to continue its scholarship program for high-achieving students.