Local Football Hero Kermit Alexander and wife adopt 5.
Kermit Alexander was an All-American football player for the Bruins in the early 1960s. He went on to play 11 seasons in the NFL – some would say that he led a life most people only dreamed about. But one dark day, a tragic storm hit Kermit’s entire core. In the early morning hours on August 31, 1984, a young man, who had played on a Pop Warner Football team Kermit founded in the Watts area of South Los Angeles, joined a gang and set out to ignite gunfire on an unexpected household. He had been hired to eliminate a lawsuit. Unfortunately, this young man and his fellow gang members entered the wrong home, and for Kermit, this meant the loss of his mother, sister, and two nephews. His life was shattered, and all hope was lost.
Unable to protect his family on that tragic morning, Kermit dragged around a suitcase of guilt for months. He could not grasp the truth that these unfair events were completely out of his control and insisted on carrying the blame. Suffocated by shame, he was lost and in need of a new way of living. Kermit soon found an oasis in his desert of life. Her name was Tami, and she was filled with light, laughter, and love. In 1992, the two immediately connected and spent the next seven years together. But something was missing: God. One night, as Tami took a course at Riverside Community College, she immediately felt something when the professor walked into the room. She knew he was a Christian and she wanted whatever he had. “He just radiated God,” she explained to Kermit, “I think this is what has been missing in my life for a long time.” In an effort to recruit Kermit, Tami encouraged him to attend Bible Studies and church. But he was resistant and frustrated, accusing Tami of changing the terms of their comfortable relationship. He didn’t want to remarry and had no plans to do so. At first, Tami was devastated, yet she followed her heart and was filled with determination and faith.
Excited for a new purpose, Tami embarked on a journey in the summer of 2003. She was invited by a local radio station to go to Haiti and serve on a Humanitarian Mission. Soon after she arrived, Tami met a precious little boy with the cutest dimples and sweetest brown eyes. His name was Clifton, and they had an instant connection. Eventually, he began calling her “mamma,” and their relationship grew as they spent quality time together during her visit at Mission of Hope near Port au Prince.
Meanwhile, feeling like a vagabond, Kermit moved to Oklahoma with only a mustard seed of faith left in his pocket. It had been almost three years since he and Tami went their separate ways, and he was anxious to connect with her again. This sliver of hope was all he needed to make the decision to return to California, vowing that everything would be different. “Life without purpose is not a life at all,” he constantly told himself.
Kermit asked Tami to marry him soon after they reconnected. To his dismay, she declined. “When Kermit asked me to marry him I said, ‘no’, and he thought I’d just flipped,” Tami expressed when reminiscing about the first proposal. Kermit could not fathom how Tami would refuse after she’d waited over 13 years for him to utter this committed question! “What in the world is wrong with you?” he exclaimed in disbelief. To his surprise, Tami calmly revealed her reasoning, “I met a little boy in Haiti. Let me make a deal with you.” She explained, “Let me take you to Haiti, and if this is what you think God would want you to do, and what you want in your life, then ask again. And if it’s not, then fine, I’m okay with that.” Kermit took a leap of faith and embarked on this extraordinary voyage.
They arrived to Haiti in September, and his love and faith grew instantly. By October, Kermit asked Tami to be his wife once again and made a pledge to be a part of whatever was happening in Haiti. They started the adoption of Clifton before they discovered a surprise that expanded their faith forever: Clifton had siblings. Not just one or two more, but four: two sisters and two brothers who were living in an orphanage nearby. One day, as Tami and Kermit visited the orphanage, Jameson, Clifton’s older brother, asked Tami for a photo of Clifton. When Tami asked why, he replied with sadness, “Because you’re going to take him to America and I’m never going see him again.” Tami’s heart melted and tears welled up in her eyes. Turning to Kermit for answers, he replied with faith and wisdom, “Then we take them all.”
The courageous couple worked together for years to officiate the adoption of Clifton and his siblings. But on January 12, 2010, their world turned upside down. Tami was driving home in traffic when she heard death calling out on the radio. The news that Haiti just experienced a 7.0 earthquake blared out from her car speakers. The epicenter was at the heart of where her children lived. Port au Prince had been tumbled. The Haitian White House had been leveled. Suddenly, it became hard for her to breath. “I couldn’t comprehend what I just heard,” she remembers, “I panicked and wondered if our children were even alive.” She immediately called Kermit and told him to turn on CNN, and as he watched the devastation across the screen, once again his life was flipped upside down. Feeling helpless and fearful, Tami and Kermit clung to their faith. After a short time, they were able to finally connect with a friend, who relayed the long anticipated information that their children were alive and well.
The United States government expedited the adoption process due to the earthquake, and two weeks later, Tami and Kermit flew to Florida to bring their children home. Manoucheka, Jameson, Clifton, Zachary, and Semfia are now safe and surrounded with love. But this was only the beginning for the Alexander Family.
Tami had been taking classes on non-profit management in an effort to elevate her own nonprofit organization, Operation Windmill International, which was started with her husband after they traveled to Haiti during their adoption process. The instructor of one of her classes asked if she would come work for Prevent Child Abuse Riverside County as an event coordinator. She recalls the opportunity being an easy decision. She always had an incredible passion to help others and used her out-of-the-box thinking to fundraise with Kermit. Their connection to retired NFL players, who also loved serving their communities, helped make her job a success. Tami began working with Riverside County as a paid position and now currently works as a volunteer.
Recently, Tami and Kermit hosted a Child Safety Fair in the Beaumont Community. They had a chance to work with over 400 kids, and their parents learned valuable tools to keep children safe. The Fire Department did a side-by-side burn, illustrating the benefits of water sprinklers. Safe Kids brought out a car showing the impact and trauma of not wearing a safety belt. SDR (Search Dog Resources) demonstrated how trained volunteers utilized dogs for search and rescue. During the fair, Tami proudly announced that Prevent Child Abuse Riverside County provided scholarships to foster care children to attend Royal Family Kids Camp this past summer. Tami, Kermit and their children were able to drive to the camp and help provide a huge “birthday party” for the amazing kids, many of whom had never had a party. Thinking back on the event, Tami expresses with love, “These are the rewards of giving and volunteering. We just want to encourage others to get involved. If we want to change our world for the better, then we need to invest in our kids. We need to pay attention to our community. We need to care!”
Tami and Kermit continue to serve in their community and help many people in different ways. Their story is a reminder that taking a leap of faith can have a ripple effect on so many people. For Tami and Kermit, it began with a life-changing trip to Haiti. For others, it may begin with a life-changing trip to the local soup kitchen. Kermit recently released a book titled, The Valley of the Shadow of Death: A Tale of Tragedy and Redemption, and Tami now works closely with Financial Peace University. Kermit says his family has given him a new lease on life, “I’m watching children see faith blossom into reality.” This holiday season, adopt the Alexanders’ spirit and consider giving your time and love to others in need.
Sabrina Short, Staff Writer