RICHMOND, Va. -- As the mom of 22-month old Baby Blake, a baby with serious health issues, Crystal Dorsey was desperate.
The single mother with no family in Richmond, and no job, needed assistance.
“I am just happy he is mine. It is very challenging. I had to give up a lot just so he could survive,” says Crystal.
She found assistance on Richmond’s Northside in a place she calls a godsend.
Crystal contacted the founder of the non-profit, Nationz Foundation, Zakia McKensey.
“I was in need of a friend. I was in need of a sister. I was in need of help. Period,” says Crystal.
“It feels so good to help other people. And meet needs that other people have,” says Zakia.
The one and a half year old non-profit is unlike any other in Richmond; they help anyone who feels on the fringe.
Zakia also specializes in helping individuals in the LGBTQ community.
“It can be difficult and it can be lonely,” says Zakia. “It is extremely hurtful.”
Zakia says transgendered men and women routinely face discrimination.
“I remember in my life when I came out in my lifestyle I was couch surfing and homeless, because when I came out to my mom she wasn’t accepting,” says Zakia.
After friends helped Zakia through her struggles, Zakia promised from then on to pay it forward.
Zakia has an extensive background in HIV prevention and education at Fan Free Clinic and Richmond’s Health District
She says Nationz provides a safe place for transgender people to be themselves.
“We want equality,” says Zakia. “We want to feel safe. We want housing and jobs.”
Nationz Foundation offers a food pantry, HIV testing and health advice for clients in private.
After her release from jail in August, Imani needed some guidance in finding work.
“Our families, for the most part, don’t give us support,” says Zakia. “The
Imani says her generous friend was more than willing to provide resume and professional help.
“Everyone around her can feel her energy. And we all love her,” says Imani. “I can’t really find enough adjectives to describe Zakia. “She is just awesome.”
Zakia says her giving spirit flowed from her late-grandmother, Delores Winston, who always supported her.
“One thing she told me was to be kind to others,” says Zakia.
As for new Mom Crystal, getting back on her feet was much easier thanks to her new friend, Zakia.
“For her to do what she does for the community is amazing,” says Crystal. “I don’t think I would be here today if Zakia didn’t say ‘I could do it. I will be ok.”
Zakia recently invited Richmond Police Chief Alfred Durham to speak at Nationz Foundation.
Zakia wanted the Chief to be aware of the fears people in the transgender community have. The meeting was also meant as a bridge builder between the police department and transgender individuals.
Zakia credits Chief Durham for accepting the invitation and listening to their concerns.
She has big plans for her non-profit.
Zakia is looking to raise enough money to expand her Nationz Foundation by purchasing a home and turning it into an emergency shelter and safe space.
If you would like Zakia to help reach her goal or find out more about the non-profit
Nationz Foundation, click here.
If you know someone CBS 6 Reporter Greg McQuade should feature in his “Heroes Among Us” segment email him.