'Buckner is a family for me'

Za-Kiya Payne – or Mama Kiki, as the neighborhood kids call her – has opened her heart and home for anyone in need of a hug or a prayer. A resident of The Parks at Wynnewood, an affordable housing community in South Dallas, Za-Kiya has been like a second mother to the children at the community for many years. She’s painfully aware of the harsh reality of many children in her community and tries to give them hope by taking them with her to church, or by giving them a warm hug when they need one.

She was raised by her mother and grandmother to be a giving person, and now that they’ve both passed away, Za-Kiya is living their legacy. Her giving heart rarely has time to think of herself.

“She wants to be a better mom for her children, and she is very active parent who is involved in her children’s life,” says Cheryl Williams, director of the Buckner Family Hope Center at Wynnewood. “She does not leave them to raise themselves. And she’s all over the place; if she is not in her children’s schools or volunteering with Buckner, she’s at church. Now we are helping her to take care of herself and she is allowing God to heal what has been broken. We’ve seen her blossom.”

Za-Kiya takes every opportunity for volunteering at the Buckner Family Hope Center at Wynnewood very seriously. She has been involved in nutrition classes, occupational training, Parents on Patrol groups and many other programs.

It’s hard to believe about Za-Kiya now, but five years ago she made a tough decision to leave a very abusive relationship and start a new life for herself and her children. She had nowhere to go until she found Wynnewood. There, Za-Kiya and her four children established their new home and found safety in a small apartment.

The family went through difficult times, and many times Za-Kiya was ready to give up, but she found hope in the assistance she received from Buckner. “For the first one to two years in the program, I never had to buy shoes for my kids,” she says. “I felt so lucky because I always got blessed with brand new shoes for them. The elementary school that my baby daughter was going had uniforms and their colors were blue and gold. The first pair of tennis shoes she got was navy blue and gold and this was her favorite pair. She wore those shoes until they fell apart.”

“Buckner is a family for me,” Za-Kiya says. “When my mama died a lot of people turned their backs on me and my kids, and it really hurt. I look to Ms. Cheryl as my godmother, because when I am ready to give up she is there to pick me back up and the staff helps me grow stronger. Buckner has been a tremendous blessing for me and my children.”

North Texas Giving Day is September 18. This year, all funds given to Buckner on North Texas Giving Day will be used to support Buckner Shoes for Orphan Souls® and provide new shoes for children in Dallas – including the children we serve through foster care, after-school programs and family transition programs – because the simple gift of a new pair of shoes gives hope to a child in need. Learn more at buckner.org/northtexasgivingday.

Anita Morris was the summer communications intern for the Buckner communications department.

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