It was in the summer of 1988, when Loree Bruce Chicoye and 24 other civic-minded women decided they wanted to take their strong community service commitment to the next level. The women, who comprised the Cream City Suburban Service Club, had already distinguished themselves in the community, becoming one of the premier organizations dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for people of color throughout Milwaukee’s central city community.
At the time, the city ranked high among others in the nation with the highest concentration of poverty and the group worked tirelessly in the community as crusaders of service promoting high academic achievement among school-age children, cultivating the love of art and
culture, as well as serving the homeless and disenfranchised.
“We sat down and made decisions based on what some of the expectations would be as a major community organization, its members and programs,” said Jenelle Elder-Green, one of the early participants.
Elder-Green recalled the group adopting an elementary and middle school, instituting such programs as Project LEAD High Expectations, Start SMART, and also serving as mentors in high schools.
The group’s name, “Cream City,” commemorates the area’s origin, with much of the city being built using clay from the riverbanks. The clay, cream in color, was made into sturdy bricks that were distinct in character and superior in quality, synonymous with the strength of character of each of the women comprising the organization. It was just a natural progression for this group of passionate and dynamic leaders to join other like-minded women who were member of The Links Incorporated.
“You have distinguished yourself well in sharing the vision of the link legacy,” said Marion Ridley Sweeney, then Central Area Director, in a letter congratulating the group at its chartering. “The high standard of community service which you bring to us enhances the tradition that is characteristic of The Links, Incorporated.”
And with that, in March of 1990, the service club smoothly transitioned into the Cream City Wisconsin Chapter, the 236th chapter of The Links, Incorporated, encompassing the Greater Metropolitan Milwaukee County area, which includes Milwaukee, Ozaukee and Waukesha counties.
Since its chartering, the chapter has continued to grow, adding more dynamic women to its ranks, while holding steadfast to the mission of enriching, sustaining and ensuring the culture and economic survival of African Americans and other persons of African ancestry.
Some of the chapter’s signature projects have been a partnership with an area high school of the arts, providing underserved youth with an opportunity to perform at key venues, including the world-renowned Milwaukee “Calatrava” Art Museum and have been major sponsors for the Festival of the Arts at the River View Park in downtown Milwaukee.
They have also been major supporters of anti-poverty and outreach programs, including a partnership with Sojourner Family Peace Center for battered women, the Social Development Commission’s shelter for homeless families and adoption of a local elementary school, where 100% of the students receive free lunch.
They have been local, longtime sponsors of the Ebony Fashion Fair, with proceeds going to fund college scholarships and some of the chapter’s health initiatives include participation in breast cancer awareness events and the WOW, Women of the World, collaboration with the National Kidney Association of Wisconsin