Philadelphia Chapter of the Links Inc. President Leah Smith Sheppard (left) and Dr. Ala Stanford, Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium President, are surrounded by volunteers as they hold the $13,300 donation.— SUBMITTED PHOTO

The Philadelphia Chapter of the Links Inc. donated $13,300 to the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium on Saturday in an effort to help the group continue testing in communities of color that have been hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Links presented the donation to the consortium while they conducted testing at the Mt Zion Baptist Church of Holmesburg, which is located in a zip code (19136) that, according to the City of Philadelphia, has the second highest rate of the virus in the city with just over 40 percent.

“We [want] to thank the Philadelphia chapter of the Links for presenting this donation to us, which will allow us to continue do what we are doing, because, as you know, everything we’ve gotten so far has been from the community, has been from everyday or ordinary people giving extraordinarily of their time and their finances to keep us going,” said Dr. Ala Stanford, Founder of the Consortium. “It has not been from the city, it has not been from the state, it has not been from the federal government, so it’s a testament to [the Links] and everyone who’s given for us to keep doing what we’re doing.”

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The consortium provides testing free of charge and confirmed that they have tested 3450 people in four cities – Philadelphia, Chester, Camden and Pottstown — since they began in mid-April.

Because they haven’t received any local, state, or federal funds, they’ve had to fundraise to cover costs and continuously stress that they can always use donations of personal protective equipment (PPE), such as masks and gloves. Stanford said the Links donation came right on time.

“I just raided my office for the last couple of boxes of gloves because we’re running short,” she said. “This is so timely.”

Other organizers pointed out the full circle aspect of the move, as one historic African-American volunteer organization stepped in to support another.

“It was a meaningful way for us to start our day in the most ravaged zip code in the city, their thoughtfulness and attention to the needs of people spoke volumes. We certainly hope the city and other government entities see how others have kicked in and assisted in this effort, and likewise do the same themselves,” said Rev. Marshall Mitchell, consortium organizer and Senior Pastor of Salem Baptist Church. “They knew of some people involved but more than that they knew of the importance of Black women supporting…efforts to help and heal the Black community.”

Leah Smith Sheppard, President of the Philadelphia Links described the move as a “no brainer.”

“As an organization, one of the goals we aspire to is to support the community and make impactful decisions around community service and the work we do in the areas of health education, wellness and the arts,” Sheppard said. “With all that in mind, we wondered where we could fit in and we started to see there were different areas of impact.”

“Here is an organization that is a boots on the ground organization, going throughout the city and they’re actively working to provide testing to members of the African-American community,” she said. “It was almost a no-brainer and it was really embraced by every single member in our chapter. We know our donation will assist Dr. Stanford and the Consortium in not only diagnosing COVID-19 cases but in working to improve overall health equity and outcomes in the African-American community.”

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