By Darlene Donloe
Leah Pump has a soft spot for young ladies. She wants the best for them. Her goal is to equip them with the resources and skills they need to sidestep life’s difficulties on their way to becoming the best versions of themselves.
That’s why Pump launched the LadyLike Foundation in 2007, a nonprofit, faith-based organization whose purpose is to educate, empower and inspire young women ages 12-18, living in underprivileged inner-city communities.
“My foundation had to be faith-based because God brought me through all of this,” Pump said. “I wouldn’t have accomplished anything without the Lord.”
Pump, who comes from a family of educators, grew up in a very strict environment.
“Everything was regimented, strategic and organized,” she said. “Raised in that environment, it’s about excellence. There was no room for error. I couldn’t talk on the phone until I was 13 and couldn’t date until I was 17.”
So when she went off to college, Pump said she felt a kind of freedom that led her down what turned out to be a troublesome path.
“I had never had that type of freedom before,” Pump said. “When I got to college, I lost it. I had never been in a serious relationship before. I fell in love with the wrong person and got married. I went through some horrific things.”
After a tumultuous marriage and then divorce at 23, Pump, who has since remarried, decided to get her life together. Little did she know at the time that what she had gone through would be a springboard into helping others.
A graduate of UC Berkeley with a bachelor of arts degree in sociology and a master’s degree in education from Pepperdine University, Pump became an educator, teaching elementary school for nine years and was a principal for two years.
Her decision to join Pastor R.A. Williams’ McCoy Memorial Baptist Church, and then work as his personal assistant, which included leading the youth in a Bible study, would prove to be a life-changing decision.
“Pastor Williams wanted me to be in charge of what he called a lady-like class,” said Pump, who has been married to Dana Pump, president, and CEO of the Harold and Carole Pump Foundation, and Double Pump Inc., for five years. “I started teaching all these Black girls the Book of Solomon. They looked at me like, ‘What are you talking about?’
“They asked me how I knew about love. At that moment, I decided to tell them some things that had happened in my life. You could have heard a pin drop. That was the birth of the Ladylike class.”
Pump said while teaching the teen girls, she also learned things about herself.
“I’m really resourceful and I’m not ashamed of what I’ve gone through,” said Pump, a native of Los Angeles.
“I can help people. The girls know I’ve been through it. I tell them real stories about how I overcame. I learned in relationships, actions speak louder than words. And more importantly, I learned, every setback is a set up for going forward.”
Recently Pump developed a “LadyLike Class” curriculum for middle and high school girls and has been asked to teach weekly classes to students within inner-city Los Angeles.
Through resource programs, workshops, mentorships and life lessons, young ladies who participate in the LadyLike Foundation are challenged to reach their highest potential and become the successful, well-rounded “Lady” they were created to be.
The LadyLike Foundation, whose tagline is “Making a difference one day at a time,” offers cooking classes, etiquette classes, tea parties, college application workshops, academic workshops, life skill lessons, and “Girl Talk” sessions where the topics are about real issues, and the girls are able to ask real questions and get real answers.
Classes and workshops are held at various locations including schools.
“Before COVID, I was teaching one class at Bethune School each week,” Pump said. “For our monthly events, we find a convenient location. Girl Talks have been held at Crenshaw Yoga and Dance on 54th and Crenshaw. I’ve also held classes at Marlborough School and Sur La Table for cooking.”
Currently, 300 girls are participating in the program.
“Most of them come from word of mouth,” Pump said. “I have an open house each year, usually in September. I post it on social media. They come from all over. It fills up quickly.”
Throughout the year, the LadyLike Foundation holds several events including LadyLike Day at UCLA, Neiman Marcus Lunch and Shop Day, LadyLike Annual Mother and Daughter Tea Party, Life and Style Workshops, and the aforementioned Girl Talk meetings.
The LadyLike Scholarship Luncheon attracts a number of celebrities each year including Angela Bassett, Jordin Sparks, Tina Knowles, Zendaya, Magic and Cookie Johnson, Samuel L. Jackson and LaTanya Richardson, Pauletta and Denzel Washington and more.
“The Lord has been so good,” said Pump, who credits the celebrity participation to her husband who is in the sports and entertainment world. “I never imagined it would be like this.”
This year, due to COVID-19, the organization had to pivot to a virtual program.
“We have virtual Girl Talks on health, relationships, and even makeup tutorials,” Pump said. “We decided not to shut down completely because the girls needed us. We wanted to keep them busy and they wanted to keep busy. All of the classes are virtual now except the tea.
“We could do it virtually, but it’s just not the same. Unfortunately, we couldn’t have our annual luncheon this year, but we were able to still give out scholarships and honor the graduates.”
On June 20, a virtual celebration was held for the teens who are 2020 graduates. The foundation presented three $5,000 scholarships and several $2,500 scholarships. One participant recently received her MBA, and another received a Ph.D.
“It can’t be explained except to say God did it,” Pump said.
Something near and dear to Pump’s heart is her support of orphans in the Obosomso Orphanage in Obuasi, Ghana.
The LadyLike Foundation supplies clothes and hygiene products and also partnered with the McCoy Memorial Baptist Church to build the first-ever bathroom and shower house for the children on the orphanage grounds.
The foundation recently sponsored three orphans to attend boarding school, which houses, feeds and clothes its students. The school places its students on a platform for success ensuring that they will one day attend college and become successful in their country.
“One of the young girls I helped in Ghana said, ‘Take me to your land,’” Pump recalled. “I told her I couldn’t. But I have committed to helping her. She is completely taken care of. I’m also taking care of her brother and another one of her friends.
“I started helping her when she was 7. Now she is 15. Helping young girls is my purpose. They need it. Whether they receive it or not, they need it. I’m helping them be accountable. It’s about putting your money where your mouth is.”
“Making a Difference” is a weekly feature profiling organizations that are serving their communities. To propose a “Making a Difference” profile, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.