Mary Kay has been one of the Haves, but being one of the Have-Nots is seared deeply into her soul.


"I went through the Dust Bowl and the 1920s. We were always eating squirrel and rabbit."


Times were tough as a child in Oklahoma, but Kay, one of 11 children, was up to the task. She helped out her share-cropping family wherever she could.


"I was driving a tractor when I was 8 years old. It was normal. It was natural. That's what we did."


No amount of labor could fix what Mother Nature had in store, however. In the late 1930s, with the family's wheat crop as high as her head the family's farm was hit hard by tragedy.


"It was beautiful, but a heat wave ruined it. That's when we left for California to pay for the harvest bill."


Eighteen years old, newly married and pregnant she and her first husband decided to move to the Golden State, a move that Kay was not eager to make. But the family set up in Perris and began working on the farms.


Next, they moved to Imperial County, working for a horse breeder, then into Cudahay, not far from Los Angeles. The family settled in Bell Gardens, where Kay still owns rental property.


But she began developing arthritis, so her doctor suggested the family move to the desert. They bought land, homesteading in Red Rock Canyon, north of Mojave. Eventually the family settled in Hesperia.


Although Kay is handy with a sewing needle, she is especially comfortable with a hammer and saw. On one Fourth of July she helped mix cement to build the foundation of a house.


"I loved to do contruction," she said.


LIVING TO HELP


Throughout the years, she helped those who needed a helping hand.As a members of the Sew & Sews, which meet at the Leisure League on Third Avenue she helps create blankets and clothing for the needy.


She picked up donated donuts for senior citizens, but when she discovered the seniors using some of the sweet cakes to feed the birds she cut down their ration and gave the rest to youth at a group home.


"I didn't like the waste."


In fact, frugality is Kay's byword.


"Anybody who has excess books, don't dump them. They need them at the high schools. They need them at the library. My theory is if you can't use it, give it."


On Aug. 15, Kay was named the Leaping Leader Grand Finale winner. The award is jointly given by KFROG radio station and Azusa Pacific University. She received her award during a ceremony at the Mall of Victor Valley in Victorville.


Today she helps people get clothes, pots, pans, blankets and the like. She helps young people. She helps old people, and those in between. She has helped those in recovery get back on their feet. She buys groceries for needy families.


"Right now I'm make lap robes for the children at Lucy Siegrist (school)."


Tireless and driven, even at the age of 89 Kay is going strong.


"I'm a workaholic. I feel guilty if I'm not doing something for somebody."


Even Kay admits that sometimes she needs a rest now and then. But it's not for long.


"After a half hour I'm ready to go again."