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  to select students from Dr. KiKi’s 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 to adopt a family and teamed up with the historic Houston Forward Times Newspaper to surprise the students with their gifts at a secret unveiling.

“When Dr. KiKi reached out to us we were honored to be a part of such a great cause,” said Forward Times Publisher Karen Carter Richards. “We reached out to a number of local businesses and organizations who jumped at the chance to spread some Christmas cheer.”

Businesses included; AG Media Agency, Bayou Beat News, Lamik Beauty, Alibaster Inc, Grubido, Houston Forward Times, Unity National Bank, Doss Couture, TAS Realty and Hodges Communications Group,

“Community partnerships are very important to us at Unity National Bank, said Unity National Bank, V.P. of Business Development, Sheri Lawal-Price. “It is the foundation of who we are and this event was a great opportunity for us to demonstrate our commitment to the community and the small businesses that serve.”

Bayou Beat News also sponsored a family.

“My children lost their father a few months ago, so when I learned one of the high school students lost his mother a couple of weeks ago, I knew I wanted to help,” said Nakia Cooper, owner of Bayou Beat News. “My children and I thoughtfully chose his gift and wrote kind words from the heart. Nothing can bring his mother back, but we gifted him in honor of all children who lost their beloved parents and guardians this year.”

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,” Bradford continued. “The kids will be happy to see all of the gifts and to have something to open.”

If you know someone who is struggling this holiday season, please reach out to your local food bank and outreach center for help.