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The Links connect Smithfield residents with health

Local members of The Links recently turned Covenant Place red with love for the community’s residents.

The group’s Suffolk chapter visited the senior citizen housing complex in Smithfield as part of an initiative to commemorate Go Red for Heart Month in February, which is in turn, an initiative of the American Heart Association.

Heart health is important for everyone. It’s considered the No. 1 killer in America, and it’s the top disease-related cause of death for women. At the same time, the American Heart Association says 80% of cardiac-related events can be prevented.

The Links have held events at Covenant Place for five years, but plans changed this year due to COVID-19.

Last year, nearly 50 people participated. “We usually do a meal for the tenants and play games but because of COVID, that didn’t happen this year,” said Dr. Gloria Spruiell, a dentist. To accomplish their objectives of commemorating the Go Red initiative, Women’s Heart Month and contributing to the fellowship and wellbeing of the community’s residents, they took a different approach.

Although they were unable to host a hot meal and community game session and fellowship this year, The Links still prepared about 45 bags decorated with hearts — in honor of this month’s multiple heart-related observances — for residents that had a selection of health food, snacks, games and personal dental and hygiene items.

Links member Gayle Spencer-Ridley said the food selections include soup, tuna, mixed fruit, red beans and rice, spaghetti and sauce, granola bars, nuts and cookies. Spruiell said the dental healthcare kit in the packages includes a toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, lip balm and information on the links between oral health and heart health.

Spruiell said some people may not be aware that your dental health can affect your cardiovascular health.

“The inflammation in the mouth goes throughout the entire body and of course it causes complications, and there is definitely a connection and risk factors associated with poor oral hygiene,” she said. “Good oral hygiene is definitely a must for helping your heart issues.”

And Links member Dr. Sonya Lee, a licensed professional counselor and behavioral health therapist, said the gifts also included a deck of cards, puzzle books, poetry and Bibles as items that can help improve mental health.

Just about everyone has probably faced a mental health challenge this year as the pandemic approaches the lamentable milestone of being an ongoing and unrelenting issue for nearly a year. Lee’s advice for dealing with it all?

Whether you’re young or old, “make sure you stay connected with someone,” she said. “We’re so isolated. Even if you do something virtually — Zoom, Facetime — reach out to people and let people know what you’re experiencing. We’re all experiencing the drag, the isolation of not being able to go anywhere so keep your mind active, reach out to people via the phone, go for walks, go for drives — just something to stay active,” Lee said. She operates Supporting Arms Continuing Care in Suffolk and is offering virtual services.

The Links Incorporated is an international nonprofit, established in 1946. Its approximately 15,000 members are professional women of color in 288 chapters in 41 states, the District of Columbia, the Bahamas and the United Kingdom. The organization focuses on health and human services, international trends, national trends, the arts and services to youth with the goal of enriching, sustaining and ensuring the culture and economic survival of African Americans and other persons of African ancestry.

The women said they’re proud to empower residents with information and tools to live fuller, healthier lives. The locally-based Links chapter plans and does events in Suffolk, Franklin, Smithfield and Isle of Wight and Southampton counties. To connect with them, look for the group on Facebook at “Suffolk-VA Chapter of The Links Incorporated.”