It is rare to find a person who dedicates themselves to their community and the people within it; that one person who devotes their time, body, spirit and at times even their home, for others. Being a community heroine is sometimes a thankless job, but the leaders and residents of Homewood, expressed their gratitude to their community heroine, Arie Lee Kyser, or Mama Kyser as she is known to many, at the third annual Mama Kyser Day celebration Aug. 14.
|RECOGNITION—Arie Lee Kyser holds her proclamation from the Office of Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato, which was given in recognition of her dedicated service to the community. (Photo by J.L. Martello)
During the day of appreciation, Kyser, 81, received a proclamation from Allegheny County; recognition at her church, Nazarene Baptist Church in Homewood; and a gathering was held in her honor at her Hamilton Avenue home.
“It was very nice (to be recognized), but I don’t do things for honor. I don’t think I’ve done that much,” Kyser said. “I just think that people are supposed to do these things.”
Since moving to Pittsburgh 62 years ago, Kyser has given back to her community ever since. She spent 29 years as an employee of Westinghouse High School, with 25 of those being the head of security, she said. She was known for helping young people stay in school and graduate. She explained how she would give students, who had a habit of being late, morning wake up calls and she would work with students after school to help them pass their courses.
The importance of education was instilled in her by her parents and is something that she continues to pass on today; not only to her children, but also to the children in the community that she claims as her own. “An education, I think that’s the only way you can survive,” she said.
Mama Kyser, who has five kids biologically, but says she has thousands and thousands of kids in the community, is known for working with the children through the vacation Bible School she holds at her home for youth ages 5-12 during the summer; the Pick-A-Gift Extravaganza, which is a Christmas tradition where she purchases gifts and allows children to come to her home and pick out a gift for themselves and their parents/guardians; and she feeds and helps to find services for those in need. She also has served and overseen many committees in her church.
“Mama Kyser is a very caring person. She nurtures a lot of the young people and encourages them to make a better way for themselves,” said long-time friend, Lee Grace Jones. “She is a positive role model for the community because she feeds the hungry, tries to find shelter for the homeless and helps people who need other social services.”
Kyser said she does what she does because she wants kids and people to succeed in life and that it is what God wants her to do. She adds that as long as she is here, He will allow her to continue to help others.
With the school year about to commence, Kyser said she hopes to begin a session of dialogue with older youth of the community, so they have an outlet to discuss what they are going through.
As far as her legacy, she said, “I hope and trust that people will continue to do the things that I’ve started because they realize that our people need an education and encouragement.”