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Super Mom and Son Duo Take on Women Build

By April 10, 2024April 15th, 2024No Comments

Ten-year-old Levi and his mom Karina at the February Women Build 2024 Kickoff Party.

There is a critical need for affordable housing among women in our community. This year, 75 percent of families partnering with Habitat to build a home are female-headed households.

While every level of involvement and giving makes a difference for affordable housing, this week, we want to highlight the importance of our SuperWomen and SuperMen as the foundation of our Women Build campaign. To become a SuperPerson, individuals pledge $250 to $5,000 a year for five years.

For Habitat supporter Karina Borgia-Lacroix, pledging to be a Women Build SuperWoman was an easy choice. But when she brought her ten-year-old son, Levi, to the February Women Build 2024 Kickoff Party, she had no idea he would pledge to become a SuperMan.

We asked Karina and Levi to share more about their experience at the event and what it means to be Women Build SuperPeople. Here’s what this mother-son duo had to share:

What originally motivated you to support Habitat for Humanity’s Women Build Campaign?

Karina Borgia-Lacroix: I’ve always believed in the power of giving back, even amidst personal challenges. Throughout my life, I’ve held onto a perspective that focuses on the silver linings, finding strength in the face of adversity. This mindset aligns seamlessly with my professional endeavors as the owner of a title company and real estate consulting firm. Witnessing the struggles of single mothers firsthand, both through my own experiences and those of others, has deeply influenced my commitment to supporting women and families in need.

Becoming a mother at 18 presented me with formidable obstacles, yet it also instilled in me a profound empathy for those navigating similar journeys. Fast-forward to the birth of my son Levi at 36, a time of greater financial stability and career establishment, I was struck by the harsh realities that single mothers endure, as well as the challenges faced by families striving to secure affordable housing in today’s market.

It was during an event I attended a few years ago that I was introduced to Habitat for Humanity’s Women Build Campaign. The mission of empowering women through homeownership resonated with me on a deeply personal level, reflecting the struggles and triumphs I’ve encountered throughout my own life. This alignment of purpose ignited a passion within me to actively contribute to Habitat’s noble cause, leveraging my professional expertise and personal experiences to make a tangible difference in the lives of women and families striving for stability and security.

What inspired you to bring Levi, your 10-year-old son, to the Women Build Kickoff Party?

Karina: Over the years, I’ve been deeply involved in various charitable endeavors, ranging from volunteering to holding board positions, with a particular emphasis on causes that positively impact children. Levi and I often engage in conversations about the disparities in children’s lives, emphasizing the importance of empathy and giving back. It’s a core value I aim to instill in him – the understanding that not all children have the same privileges, and the significance of using our blessings to uplift others.

Each week, Levi and I meticulously review my calendar, balancing my commitments with his sports activities, social engagements, and our cherished mother-son bonding time. Managing this delicate juggling act together has become a Sunday ritual for us. However, the week of the Women Build Kickoff Party presented a unique opportunity. With no conflicting sports activities on Levi’s schedule, I casually mentioned the option of staying home with a babysitter. To my surprise, Levi expressed a keen interest in accompanying me to the event. His decision was entirely self-driven, reflecting his growing curiosity and desire to be involved in my community endeavors.

While I had always anticipated Levi’s eventual interest in joining me in my philanthropic pursuits, I hadn’t expected it to manifest so soon or entirely of his own volition. His enthusiasm filled me with immense joy, prompting me to reach out to the organization to inquire about his attendance. I reassured them that Levi’s presence would be marked by genuine interest and respect for the cause, and I eagerly secured a ticket for him. It was a moment of pride for me as a mother, witnessing his burgeoning sense of compassion and his eagerness to make a meaningful difference in the world.

Can you tell us about your experience at the event and what made you decide to donate to Women Build and become a SuperMan?

Levi: At the event, I learned that some people can’t afford regular homes, and that made me sad. I thought about how it could be kids from my school who are struggling, but they don’t always talk about it. So, I wanted to help them and their families by giving money to Women Build. They use the money to help families who really need it, even if I don’t know them personally. I want to be a SuperMan because I want to keep helping those families and kids have a better home and life.

What discussions did you have with your son before attending the event and making his pledge?

Karina: Before attending the event and making his pledge, Levi and I had only briefly touched on my involvement with the organization. Typically, I keep discussions with him regarding my financial contributions to anything more lighthearted, focusing instead on the broader impact of my efforts in the community. While he understands that I play a role in making a difference, the specifics have remained somewhat veiled.

However, attending the Women Build Kickoff Party changed that dynamic. As we arrived, Levi noticed my name displayed as a supporter, accompanied by the title “SuperWoman.” Intrigued, he questioned what it signified, prompting me to explain the financial pledge I had made. His inquiry then turned to why I hadn’t shared this information with him earlier. In response, I smiled and conveyed to him that while I don’t always disclose every financial aspect of my involvement with any charity, the essence of my actions lies in the spirit of giving back rather than seeking recognition.

While sitting at the table, I emphasized to Levi the importance of silent giving, explaining that true generosity doesn’t require public acknowledgment. Yet, when he questioned why I hadn’t shared this aspect of my contributions with him, I found myself momentarily at a loss for words. It was a poignant moment, highlighting the complexity of navigating parental transparency while instilling values of humility and altruism.

Left: This ten-year-old is ready to use his superpowers to give back as a Women Build SuperMan! Right: Levi making his pledge to empower female-headed households for the next five years.

How does it feel to know that your donation will help families in need have safe and stable homes?

Levi: It feels really good to know that my donation will help families have safe and stable homes. I’m happy that I can give back to my community and help people afford homes. Having shelter, or like mom says, a roof over your head, is really important for families to stay safe and survive. And for kids, it’s important to be able to enjoy their lives without worrying about where they’ll live or where they can keep their personal things.

How do you believe this experience will impact your son’s understanding of philanthropy?

Karina: I believe that this experience has profoundly shaped my son’s understanding of philanthropy in a way that words alone couldn’t have achieved. Hearing firsthand accounts, like that of the last home recipient, and witnessing the tangible impact of our contributions unfold in real time has left an indelible impression on him.

As he listened to the recipient’s story, recounting the transformative ripple effect of stable housing on her life and those around her, Levi grasped the essence of Goodwill. He recognized that our support wasn’t merely aiding one individual but fostering positive change that reverberated throughout the entire community. It wasn’t about short-term assistance for immediate needs, but rather, creating lasting, sustainable change that uplifted numerous lives.

The emotional weight of the recipient’s narrative, particularly her recounting of past hardships and the stark contrast with her newfound stability, deeply resonated with Levi. He empathized with her struggles and felt a visceral connection to the notion of safety and security, especially as he contemplated the stark realities of violence in other communities.

This experience has been pivotal for Levi as he navigates his own journey of self-discovery and understanding his place in the world. It opened his eyes to the profound impact that individuals can have on each other’s lives through acts of kindness and generosity. As a mother, witnessing his emotional journey and a newfound appreciation for the power of giving has been incredibly moving, reinforcing my own commitment to fostering a spirit of compassion and empathy in him.

Can you share a little bit about why giving back to the community is important to you?

Levi: Helping out in the community is important to me because it helps people survive and have a better life. When we give back, it’s like creating a chain reaction of good things happening. I believe in Karma, so when we help others, it comes back to us in some way, maybe not right away, but it always does. It’s like adding drops to fill someone’s bucket – if we all keep giving, the world becomes a happier place. And if I ever need help from my community, I hope someone will be there for me, just like we’re all part of one big family.

How do you plan to continue fostering a spirit of generosity and compassion in your son beyond this event?

Karina: My dedication to giving back has been a lifelong journey, but it took on a deeper significance when Levi came into my life. His birth, at a later stage in my own life, offered me a fresh perspective, prompting me to reflect on the support and assistance I had received from others during my own challenges as a young single mother at the age of 18. It became clear to me that I had reached a stable point in my life, largely due to the kindness and generosity of those around me.

Around the time Levi was 18 months old, I initiated a reading and emotional training program for local children’s centers and elementary schools. This commitment has me spending two to four hours of my time each week during every school year, engaging with the children in meaningful ways. At the end of the year, we culminate with a volunteer day at the Midwest Food Bank, where I aim to instill in the children the values of giving back and becoming compassionate members of society.

By involving Levi in these endeavors and demonstrating the importance of giving through action rather than just words, I aim to foster within him a genuine spirit of generosity and compassion. Our household prioritizes community service over material gain, emphasizing the concept of Karma and the belief that what you give to the world ultimately comes back to you. I often liken life to a bank account when explaining this to my children, teaching my children the importance of depositing more into it than withdrawing to avoid the bankruptcy of a self-centered existence.

Through these ongoing efforts, I hope to instill in Levi a lifelong commitment to making a positive impact on the world around him, ensuring that the values of generosity, compassion, and service remain integral to his character as he grows and navigates his own path in life.

How does it feel knowing you’re the youngest SuperMan/continuous donor we’ve ever had?!

Levi: It makes me really happy to know that kids like me can also make a difference in the community by donating money or volunteering. I think a lot of kids don’t realize how much money they spend on things they don’t really need, or that there are people in their own communities who need help. You can start helping at any age, well, maybe not until you’re 7, so you understand how to make a difference in others’ lives.

I believe having a safe home is really important for everyone. It hurts me to think that some people have to do things that could hurt them just to survive. I want to keep helping people have food, water, and shelter so they can survive. The thought of not having a safe home or any of my friends not having one makes me really sad.

When my pledge is up in 5 years, I promise to donate more money if I can afford it. I’m even going to ask my mom to hire me so I can earn more money to give. Helping others is something I want to keep doing for as long as I can, and I really do like having the SuperMan name; that’s so much fun. It’s like I have a superpower now.

As a parent, what values do you hope to instill in your child through experiences like this one with Women Build?

Karina: As a parent, my ultimate aim is to instill in my child a set of values that will guide him throughout his life, shaping him into a compassionate, empathetic, and socially responsible individual. Experiences like the Women Build event provide invaluable opportunities to impart these values in tangible ways.

First and foremost, I hope to instill in my child a deep sense of empathy and compassion. Through witnessing the struggles and triumphs of others, such as the stories shared at the Women Build event, my child learns to empathize with those facing adversity and to extend a helping hand wherever possible.

Additionally, I seek to cultivate within my child a strong sense of gratitude and humility. By exposing him to the realities of life outside our own bubble and demonstrating the importance of giving back, I hope to foster an attitude of appreciation for what he has and a willingness to share his blessings with others.

Moreover, I aim to instill in my child a strong sense of social responsibility and civic duty and I try to teach this in my reading programs with the hopes of instilling this in the future leaders of our community and not just for Levi. Through active participation in community service initiatives like the Women Build project, he learns that he has a role to play in making the world a better place and that even small acts of kindness can have a significant impact.

Ultimately, I hope that experiences like the Women Build event help to shape my child into a well-rounded individual who not only achieves personal success but also makes meaningful contributions to the world around him. By imparting these values, I believe I can empower my child to lead a fulfilling life centered around compassion, empathy, and service to others.

What would you say to other kids your age who might be interested in helping others but aren’t sure how to start?

Levi: I would tell other kids my age that there are lots of ways they can help others, even if they’re not sure where to start. They could ask their parents for guidance, or they can call my mom, like I do when I have a question. One way they could help is by donating money to charities that build homes for families who can’t afford them. Another idea is to find ways to earn money, like doing chores around the house, and then donating some of it to charity.

Imagine if every child donated a portion of the money they make or receive as gifts from birthdays or holidays to charity. Since we don’t have bills to pay yet, that money could go a long way in helping others instead of spending it on things we don’t really need, like video games.

I’m really interested in starting a program to help kids learn how to give back, especially while we’re still young and our funds aren’t needed for bills or taxes. If someone gives us a gift, it’s like a circle of giving – we can give some of it back to help others and keep the kindness going. My mom always takes a little bit of money I receive and donates a little and puts the other in an account for me. Maybe Mom can teach other parents how to do it, or maybe Habitat and my mom can help me figure out how to get something like this started in a real way, so we can make a bigger change together.

Any final thoughts?

Karina: Levi knows that he has been living and is being raised in a woman-led, single-mother family environment.

Levi: I’ve been lucky to have had a mother who provides a safe and stable environment for me but, I do know that not all children, even in our own family, have had the same. I know I have received blessings, and I’m committed to giving back and sharing those blessings with others. I believe that blessings are meant to be passed on, not kept all to yourself.

Karina: In my business, I understand that many families today struggle to prepare for emergencies or even afford simple luxuries like birthday gifts, as a significant portion of their income goes towards housing. In our area, the disparity between average income and housing prices is glaring. Single-parent households, whether led by women or men, face even greater challenges in finding affordable housing on a single income. Purchasing a home with an affordable mortgage provides stability, allowing families to plan for the future and instill self-reliance in their children.

During discussions with Levi, while answering these questions, he was deeply moved by the thought of someone lacking a safe place to live, and tears welled in his eyes on a variety of occasions. We had to take a few breaks because he just wasn’t sure how to answer and just cried a bit. Witnessing his emotional response, I reassured him that it’s okay to feel empathy and express his emotions. His tears were a poignant reminder of the importance of compassion and the urgent need for action to address housing insecurity in our communities and get children who are willing to do something about it involved in the mission.

Click here to pledge to become a SuperPerson today and help empower female-headed households for the next five years!