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Rhonda Joy McLean (Luncheon Chairperson), Lorraine Madry (Honoree), Gerri Warren Merrick (President, Greater New York Chapter, The Links Incorporated)

*On Saturday, March 30, 2013, the esteemed Greater New York Chapter The Links, Incorporated under the influential leadership of President Gerri Warren Merrick hosted the 2013 Women of Distinction Spirit Awards Luncheon at the picturesque Pier Sixty at Chelsea Piers in New York City.  Under the banner “Links to Healing for a Brighter Future,” the extraordinary female organization honored Jo Ann Jenkins, chief operational officer of AARP and president of the AARP Foundation, and Dr. Lorraine Madry, senior program director for domestic violence services, Urban Women’s Retreat.

The event began with the vendor showcase displaying fabulous fashions, jewelry, art and of course, hats.  Armed with cash and credit cards, the ladies shopped ’til they dropped in their seats at the start of the show.  The annual signature luncheon takes place the day before Easter Sunday and is the perfect place for the ladies who lunch to show off their Easter bonnets – with all the frills upon it.  In addition to the vendor showcase, the event also featured a spring fashion show, entertainment, a delicious lunch and an awards program and concluded with more vendors shopping and dancing to the hottest dance music by The Warren Daniels Band.

“On behalf of Greater New York Chapter, The Links, Incorporated, I extend a warm welcome to our 2013 Women of Distinction Spirit Awards Luncheon and Fashion Show” stated President Merrick in her warm welcoming remarks.  “This year we invite you to join us in celebrating the outstanding achievements of two women of distinction Jo Ann Jenkins, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer and Foundation President, AARP, and Dr. Lorraine Madry, Senior Program Director, Domestic Violence Services, Urban Resources Institute.  They are true leaders in their respective fields and exemplify what it means to set a high standard of excellence in the community and the corporate world.”

Then, lunch was served.  All that shopping caused the ladies to work up a voracious appetite.  Guests lunched on scrumptious Shrimp Two Ways (appetizer); Maple Dijon Chicken (entrée); Decadent Miniature Sweets (dessert); and Assorted Bread Basket, Coffee and Tea.  Expensive wines were served throughout lunch.

The awards program followed.  “The 2013 Women of Distinction Spirit Awards Luncheon celebrates two extraordinary women who are making a difference in our communities and working towards a brighter future for us all,” stated President Merrick.  “Both of these women leaders are partners in our chapter’s mission to support victims of domestic and family violence and we are grateful for their unstinting support.”

Under the leadership of Jo Ann Jenkins, The AARP Foundation is committed to supporting the needs of lower-income, vulnerable Americans aged 50 years and over who are facing hunger, housing and other issues, including Elder Abuse of various kinds.  For the past few years, Greater New York Links have worked in partnership with the New York State AARP to provide needed education and services to seniors in the metropolitan New York area and that great partnership continues.  The National Links are working together with the AARP Foundation to provide services to seniors across the United States to make sure that those who have worked hard throughout their lives can achieve the bright future they deserve in their golden years.

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Link Dr. Marcella Maxwell, Jo Ann Jenkins (Honoree), Link Gerri Warren-Merrick (President, Greater New York Chapter, The Links Incorporated), Link First Vice President Rhonda Joy McLean (Luncheon Chairperson)

Dr. Lorraine Madry has been an inspiring partner with Greater New York Chapter, The Links incorporated, to provide direct services to women and their families who have suffered as a result of domestic and family violence.  The luncheon brought to light her important work in this area at the Urban Resource Institute and beyond.

“This signature event undergirds our community service work and funds our student scholarship programs.  We are so grateful for your generous support,” stated Luncheon Chair Rhonda Joy McLean who was honored by her Link sisters for an outstanding performance.   During the program — as Link luncheon vice chairs Gina Bolden-Rivera, DeNora M. Getachew, Barbara North-Lightning and Anna Ponder approvingly looked on — President Merrick presented Link McLean with a beautiful bunch of flowers for a job well done.  An amazing bouquet of flowers was also presented to Link Dr. Marcella Maxwell for her loyal service and for year-after-year being the top ticket salesperson.  In her cheerful presentation, President Merrick generated thunderous laughter as she noted that both floral arrangements were bigger than their recipients.

WHCR’s Flo Wiley introduced members of the Links.  Other highlights of the program included remarks from Links’ scholarship recipient Tonia Smith; Rev. Dr. Elaine M. Flake, Chaplain, The Links Incorporated (invocation); greetings from Margot James Copeland, national president, The Links Incorporated; greetings Dianne Hardison, eastern area director, The Links Incorporated; performance by Maya Azucena, international human rights advocate and artist; Katherine Fields, 2013 prize awards committee chair (door prizes); and a “spring fashionation” show commentated by Linda M. Johnson and produced by Laurita  Shields with style director, Style Source LLC.   (Photos by Gideon Manasseh)

About the Greater New York Chapter, The Links, Incorporated
Established in 1946, The Links, Incorporated, is one of the nation’s oldest and largest volunteer service organizations of women who, linked in friendship, are committed to enriching, sustaining and ensuring the culture and economic survival of African-Americans and persons of African descent.  The Links, Incorporated is a not-for-profit organization, which consists of nearly 12,000 professional women of color in 272 chapters located in 42 states, the District of Columbia and the Bahamas.  Greater New York Chapter, founded in 1949, was the first chapter chartered in New York and comprises members from all five boroughs in New York City and from Long Island. Under the leadership of President Gerri Warren Merrick, Greater New York Chapter is committed to fostering community outreach in the New York metropolitan area through quality programs with a long-term impact on the well-being and enrichment of African-Americans and other traditionally underserved communities.  For the past two years, Great New York has focused heavily on enhancing the lives of those who have been victimized by domestic and family violence through each of its five Facets:  Services to Youth, The Arts, Health and Human Services, National Trends and Services and International Trends and Services.  For more information log on to Greater New York Chapter’s Web site at

About Jo Ann Jenkins
Jo Ann Jenkins is the newly appointed Chief Operating Officer of the AARP and will continue as president of the AARP Foundation, AARP’s affiliated charity.  Since joining the Foundation in 2010, she has revitalized the organization and enhanced its work in assisting more than 5 million older vulnerable, low-income people each year with issues of hunger, housing, income and isolation.  In her new role as COO of the AARP overall, effective March 1, 2013, she will work on developing enterprise-wide strategies that include defining and facilitating operational priorities as well as working to maximize resources for the entire organization, including the Foundation.  Greater New York Chapter, The Links, Incorporated congratulates Ms. Jenkins on her new position.

Ms. Jenkins came to AARP Foundation from the Library of Congress, where she was second in command since 2007, responsible for managing all day-to-day operations, a 4,000-person staff and a $600 million budget.  She developed and directed nine National Book Festivals and the Library of Congress Experience, the largest and most complex program in its 210-year history.  Under her leadership, the Foundation has enhanced the effectiveness of its programs and services and increased public awareness of AARP Foundation’s role in spotlighting and addressing the needs of vulnerable Americans age 50 and older.  She is currently on the Boards of Directors of Living Cities and the Congressional Hunger Center

About The Reverend Dr. Lorraine Madry
Lorraine Madry, D.Min., is the Senior Program Director of Domestic Violence Services for the Urban Women’s Retreat.  The Reverend Dr. Madry’s commitment to the reduction of domestic violence is transcended only be her deep religious faith. An ordained minister and former teacher in the New York City Public school system, Dr. Madry’s activism on behalf of women and children fleeing violence developed a targeted focus and intensity in 1986.  At that time, she was appointed by Urban Resource Institute (URI) to the position of Assistant Director of the Urban Women’s Retreat, URI’s first domestic violence shelter program.  This was a natural progression for Dr. Madry. Her previous position as the Education Coordinator for ARTC URI’s corporate parent, involved facilitating educational and social service supports for patients and their families, who were struggling to achieve sobriety and a stable lifestyle. Such was the genesis of Dr. Madry’s passionate awareness of the plight of families in crisis.

Raising public awareness of the nature and prevalence of violence within families and the plight of its victims drives Dr. Madry’s personal and professional agenda.  In 1992, she was appointed by then Governor George Pataki to the New York state Advisory Council on Domestic Violence.  She served two terms with distinction.  In 2002 m recognizing her exceptional drive and leadership, URI asked Dr. Madry to assume the directorship of the Urban Women’s New Beginnings. This was URI’s first major expansion of its DV shelter program, and achievement that in large measure can be attributed to Dr. Madry’s tireless leadership. (In total, URI now provides shelter and related services to approximately 500 women and their children).  Dr. Madry is the President and Founder of the Franklin outreach ministries, The Church Without Walls, Inc.  She is also the President former Director and of Mount Sinai Center For Community Enrichment: Open arms Center of Hope, a non-residential domestic violence program.  Currently, Dr. Madry continues to oversee the daily operations of two of URI’s residential DV programs and is the Senior Program Director of Domestic Violence services, for Urban Resource Institute’s Domestic Violence Programs.  Much of her work targets the community at large, conducting workshops, seminars, and delivering specialized instruction to religious institutions, schools, and social service agencies.

Audrey J. Bernard is an established chronicler of Black society and Urban happenings based in the New York City area.

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Audrey J. Bernard