Monday February 1, 2021

By: Consuella Mackey

How Operation Confidence was started. I followed my mother’s career as a hairstylist & fashion designer, and became a licensed cosmetologist at a very young age. Coming from a 2-parent household with strong moral values, I disappointed my parents when I became a teen mother at the age of 17. Determined to become a success, at the age of 22 I became the owner of 3 hair salons, located in Los Angeles, Santa Monica, and San Francisco. I was also the hairstylist & fashion designer of many celebrities.

One day while working at one of the salons, I tripped over a box of hair supplies and broke my foot. Unable to stand and work, I became depressed and felt sorry for myself. One day afterwards, a voice seemingly from up above, came to me and said, “How dare you feel sorry for yourself when there are people with permanent disabilities making profound contribution in society!” It was as if I had become revitalized, and wanted to do my part in making a strong, positive difference in society. Shortly after my recovery, I researched and found that I could use my profession, the beauty industry, as a form of rehabilitation for people with disabilities. I later made an appointment to go before the Los Angeles City Council to ask if they would make it possible for me to volunteer my time at a school for children with disabilities. An appointment was then made for me to meet with the principal of Joseph P Widney High School.

Now keep in mind, I worked in a glamorous industry where only a few people, including myself, cared about anyone other than themselves, so I had never interacted with a person with a disability. The day I stepped into the lobby of the school, and my life changed forever. The school bell had just rung and right in front of me were hundreds of children with all types of disabilities, rushing to their next class. I was shocked to see children in wheelchairs, others totally blind, amputees, burn victims, and so many others. I began to hyperventilate and became overwhelmed to the point where I thought I was going to pass out, but held on to the nearest wall for support. As a mother, my heart was so hurt not being able to do anything to help these children.

Well, I was wrong; just when I was about to rush out of the school building screaming, something extraordinary happened. All the other students had gone to their next class except for 2; one in a manual wheelchair who badly needed a power chair, and the other student was blind, walking on the opposite side of the hallway. The blind student accidentally dropped his books and was on the floor searching around trying to find them. The student in the wheelchair called out and said “Jimmy, hold on I’m on my way to help you, I’ll be your eyes and you be my legs and we’ll get to class on time.”

After that, I felt I had a lot to offer these children. I began teaching classes on subjects such as the importance of personal hygiene, independent living, how to make one’s attire accessible by using Velcro instead of buttons, how to choose fabrics that won’t create pressure sores when having little or no rear end muscle tone while in a wheelchair, fashionable but easy to manage hairstyles, cuts, color, and so much more. I also created and hosted school assembly fashion shows using the glamor world as a form of rehabilitation. I created business attire altered to fit an array of disabilities, sports uniforms, prom/evening wear, and more. I created grooming tools as well, by heating and then bending a comb or brush to fit the grasp for a person with a limited range of motion, so as to hold the item independently. For the first time in their lives, students had a feeling of self-worth and confidence as a member of mainstream society.

For many of the students, Operation Confidence created the Totally Confidence Disabled Wheelchair Drill Team who performed throughout Los Angeles and others parts of the United States. The team was invited by Mrs. Eunice Kennedy Shriver to perform at the International Special Olympics on the campus of the University of Notre Dame. The team was also congratulated by President Ronald Reagan, as well as many governors and mayors.

Operation Confidence was a part of the City of Los Angles architectural barriers community and was a part of the team that was responsible for curb cuts, accessibly entrance into buildings, bathrooms, stairs, doorways, and more. In 1990, I was appointed the first African American female president of the Kiwanis Club and congratulated by President and Nancy Reagan. Operation Confidence also sat on the Habitat for Humanity board of directors and was responsible for many homes built throughout the City of Los Angeles for low-income new homeowners.

Also in 1990, Partners of America – an international nonprofit organization founded by President John F. Kennedy, whose partnerships were between the U.S. and Latin American countries to foster exchange and education – heard of Operation Confidence. We donated over 2,000 pieces of mobility equipment to the impoverished children of Argentina thanks to Goodwill Industries. Later that year I was invited to the country as an Ambassador of Good Faith. I traveled throughout the country on 2 separate trips.

In 2002, Operation Confidence was asked by the City of Los Angeles Department on Disabilities to represent the department at the World Bank Disability & Development Conference. With Mrs. Shriver’s support, I was honored to be seated with the late Senator Ted Kennedy and John Wolfensohn. In 2004, I was a recipient of ABC Extreme Makeover Home Edition thanks to a letter written by the many disabled children whom I had cared for. In 2005,

Operation Confidence created the Positive Redirection Team (PRT) a group of motivational speakers and life coaches who used wheelchairs. The team became very popular and gave presentations at school assemblies on subjects such as, “How to interact with a student with a disability to make their school experience inclusive”. Companies and corporations invited the team to give presentations on how to make the workplace accessible and co-worker friendly when hiring a person with a disability. Operation Confidence also had the first beauty salon converted to accommodate customers with a disability as seen on NBC. In 2006, I was appointed Commissioner on Disabilities for the City of Los Angeles, and also during that year, Operation Confidence PRT was invited by the Governor of Louisiana to come to New Orleans to bring hope and resources to the disabled community devastated by Hurricane Katrina 2009 was when the PRT & I discovered an encampment of veterans living out of their wheelchairs on the streets of Skid Row. This came about after giving a presentation to the residents of the Union Rescue Mission. Many still wore portions of their military uniforms, while others proudly displayed remnants left of their American flag. It was at that time a commitment was made by Operation Confidence to do its part to help our forgotten American heroes. For over 20 years, Operation Confidence has hosted inclusive job fairs and community outreach events throughout the city of Los Angeles; partnering with Fortune 500 companies, small businesses, and government agencies. Two such events took place on the grounds of the historic Los Angeles Sports Arena, where all branches of the military and 120 vendors participated.

Our Mission:

It is to provide stable and permanent housing for disenfranchised veterans as well as provide workforce development and employment opportunities.

Operation Confidence Angels:

While working tirelessly for over a decade to achieve our mission, two angels heard my plea; Ms. Jet Sison, President of Capital Holdings Inc. (capitalholdingsinc. com), a privately-owned real estate corporation in Southern California. She donated 5 acres of the land to implement Operation Confidence’s Workforce Development/Employment Center & Residential Dwellings. The other was world-renowned architect Mr. Norberto Nardi, who has kindly agreed to design a network of houses for Operation Confidence (nardiassociates. com). Operation Confidence is in need of a team of professionals willing to assist with the infrastructure to build the housing development.

In 1997, Operation Confidence was established as a 501 © 3 nonprofit organization and to date have assisted over 20,000+ individuals with disabilities, by providing wraparound services such as but not limited to job preparation/dress for success workshops, job creation, and employment opportunities.

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