By Stacey Gualandi
T’Keyah Crystal Keymah feels right at home with a toolbox. You may know this comedic actress best from the television shows In Living Color or The Cosby Show, but she can tell the difference between a power saw and a power drill.
Her skills, combined recently with an endless supply of enthusiasm, came in handy as Chairperson of the Habitat for Humanity San Fernando/Santa Clarita Valley’s 2nd Annual Women Empowerment Build.
“I’ve wanted to do a Habitat for Humanity build ever since I saw President Jimmy Carter in a hard hat. This year I was like, finally I’m going to do it!
I had no idea what to expect but I didn’t expect to be constantly moved and awed and proud of the women who worked beside me…families contributing to the building of their own homes…and the kids who were so excited that they were getting their own bedrooms for the first time.”
Everyone from actors to military leaders to singers participated in giving families “a hand up, not a hand out”. My fellow YAS (Yoga for Athletes) yoga instructor Kristie Latray, a member of T’Keyah’s team, invited me to come along – my first Habitat event. You can see how much fun and empowering it is from this video of last year’s WE build.
I was overwhelmed with the number of women getting down and dirty to build walls, paint aluminum siding, and plant a garden for people in need. The event helped raise over $60 thousand dollars and brought together 700 female volunteers – in pink hard hats no less – to build 10 low-income houses in Pacoima, a community in North Los Angeles County.
T’Keyah says this community is a Habitat-enriched neighborhood. “This affiliate, thanks to CEO Donna Deutchman, pioneered this enriched neighborhood program. A house is enough, but they go beyond the house by offering a wealth of services to really make it a community.
Tutoring, health care services, English as a second language. In Pacoima, the high school graduation rate is 43%. In this enriched neighborhood area, it’s 100% and more than 90% complete college or trade school.”
Many role models were on hand to empower these future residents. Daytime drama “The Bold and the Beautiful” had a team that included soap stars Kim Matula and Hunter Tylo. Tylo says this isn’t the first time she got her hands dirty. “It’s so important to not just inspire others, but to reach out and help families who need a place to live.
It’s a huge problem in the world today and many times we don’t even look in our own backyard where people need help. And that’s the message I want to send out.”
A tremendous amount of money is saved on a massive building project like this when volunteers help with the work. Singer/actress Rebecca Holden says it’s nice to use one’s gifts and abilities to try to give back. “I did an event for them last year. I am so impressed with this organization.
It’s not just a giveaway program. Families must qualify in order to get a home. They do volunteer work too; kids have to stay in school; they have to work fulltime. They are participating in their own dreams coming true.”
And it’s certainly been a dream come true for T’Keyah. She told me about how one father, who works for a construction company, laid the cement for this property.
He had no idea that he was doing the cement foundation for a home he would live in a year later.
“Everywhere you turn, you hear great stories. I am so proud to be working with this affiliate, but I intend to work with them all over the world. I’m in talks now to do something overseas. It’s an incredible experience,” says T’Keyah.
Just all in a day’s work for this tough as nails volunteer. Kudos to T’Keyah and all the women building better tomorrows, today! And you all look good in pink!
FACEBOOK: habitatforhumanity SF/SCV