Chicago television producer Tasha Ransom loaded bundles of green-topped carrots and bright leafy romaine lettuce into dozens of grocery bags Wednesday as part of an assembly line packing two days of complete, fresh meals for families at a north Minneapolis 24-hour day care.

“It’s gratifying to give back to the community,” she said with a buoyant smile. “It means I’m feeding someone.”

Ransom was one of some 800 members of international philanthropic organization the Links, Incorporated who are in the Twin Cities for a four-day biennial regional conference. Founded in 1946, the organization claims 14,000 members, mostly women of color, in 283 chapters across the United States and the Bahamas. The group describes itself as committed to sustaining and enriching those of African descent.

Agape Child Development Center provides subsidized day care for children around the clock seven days a week. The staff cares for almost 300 children a week, about 100 at a time.

Most are black children from the surrounding community whose parents have received services from the attached domestic violence crisis center, Oasis.

Members of the Links, most of whom are successful professionals, showed the children what is possible with their message of hope, love and support.

Into each grocery bag stuffed with fresh veggies, meat, heart-shaped cookies and spices went a handwritten love note, such as, “God is awesome. You are awesome. Have a wonderful day.”

Leading the meeting and overseeing the effort at Agape was Glenda Masingale Manson, central area director for the Links from Bloomington, Ill. Along with their presence, the Links brought a present: a $6,500 check. “We are here to support this organization because of what they are doing for this community,” Masingale Manson said. “We are here to let them know that we are committed to their success.”

On three stories of a renovated mansion, about 100 Links got busy in a coordinated deployment to each room. Hennepin County Judge Tanya Bransford, a Links member, and Agape founder Diane Thibodeaux recorded a panel discussion aimed at helping families navigate the legal system. In an adjacent room, other Links mentored entrepreneurs.

Others helped the toddlers create vision boards of their strengths and dreams, while some cuddled and rocked fussy infants.

Jori Thibodeaux, director of operations at Agape and Oasis and the founder’s daughter-in-law, said the donation will go toward renovations in some of the classrooms as well as supplies such as wet wipes, diapers and tissues. This summer, Agape also will launch a music and dance program for the children, so some money will go to the purchase of instruments.

But Thibodeaux said one of the most important things the Links were doing was spending time with the children, instilling a sense of “I can dream. I can believe. I can achieve.”

The children had their own parting gift for the volunteers: a printed card with a drawing by 4-year-old resident artist Martice Coleman of trees, flowers and a rainbow reaching toward a red sun against a bright blue sky.


Twitter: @rochelleolson