Acres Homes students hit hardest by COVID-19 gifted by community

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Houston native, educator and entrepreneur Dr. LaKeisha Menifee, affectionately known as “Dr. KiKi,” teamed up with local black-owned businesses to bring much-needed holiday cheer to those hardest hit by the pandemic.

For the past two years, Dr. KiKi has partnered with Booker T. Washington High School, her alma mater, to select students from the STEM UP Urban Perspective after-school program to participate in a Christmas giveaway.

This year, the program selected nearly two dozen families of students who attended area schools including MC Williams Middle School and Ernest McGowen Sr. Elementary.

“This was our second year doing the event, but this year we wanted to open it up to more families because of the hardships that so many have faced due to the pandemic,” said Dr. KiKi. “Some of the students have lost parents due to COVID-19 and are experiencing homelessness due to family job loss and other issues.”

Dr. KiKi reached out to local black-owned businesses in the community, including Unity National Bank and TAS Realty, to adopt a family and surprise students with gifts.

Prior to the unveiling, the students participated in a rocket launch to Santa at MC Williams Middle School, where they spent the day building rockets with their families and writing their Christmas wishes to Santa. The wishes were attached to the rockets and launched into space.

The students were not aware that their wishes would be seen and that the businesses would help to make their Christmas wishes come true.

“This was a true blessing, said Rickie Bradford, a father of eight and youth pastor who has been laid off due to COVID-19. “We have a large family and it’s hard right now. The kids will be happy to see all of the gifts and to have something to open.”

In addition to the Christmas gifts for students, the organization helped host a Holiday Health Fair, with drive-thru COVID-19 screenings, mental health screenings, a food drive, and assisting families with applying for much-needed resources.