“Are you happy?” asked Felicia Dukes, looking down at her youngest daughter, smiling and running around her.Two-year-old Raylyn blurted out “Kitchen!” A couple of mini-pigtails stood up from her hair, and she wore a black jersey with a pink-and-turquoise design in front.Her big brother bent over. “See the new kitchen?” Kima, 20, said.Nearby on this late Dec. 29 afternoon stood two other siblings: nine-year-old brother Amauri in a pea green jacket and 11-year-old Nyia wearing rectangular glasses. Neither could stop taking in all sights in their new home. Besides the cozy kitchen, these included three bedrooms and a den, a dining room with a wood-carved table featuring an inlaid glass top, and a living room with a hardwood floor and decorative fireplace. The driveway led to a garage and basketball court. Out in back was a big yard with a barbecue set.And this was the second time in 12 months that a homeless family was dazzled by their same new home. For her before-Christmas column, Sandy Banks wrote in the Los Angeles Times about a lecturer in law and outreach staff worker at UCLA School of Law who had moved from his above-comfortable home in the Crenshaw district to live with his mother at the beginning of 2012. The Harvard-educated lawyer’s altruistic intention was simply to help a single mother and her three children, who were staying at a South Los Angeles domestic violence shelter, get their lives back in order.And now Tony Tolbert was doing it again, Banks reported. This time the single mom and her children were coming from Alexandria House, a transitional residence for single women with children and neighborhood center for women and kids in the mid-Wilshire area. The new family was moving on the last Saturday in December. In fact, just before 5 p.m. an overloaded white pickup arrived with a pair of matching leather-like couches, cardboard boxes and plastic tubs. A few minutes later, other families from Alexandria House showed up along with Sister Judy Vaughan to have a combo pizza party and African American Kwanzaa celebration. The Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet founded Alexandria House in 1996.$1 a monthOn a ride to pick up ten large pizzas, Tolbert explained how it all started when he read an article in Parade Magazine two-and-a-half years ago. The feature chronicled a family in Atlanta who sold their big house, downsizing to a much smaller place, and donating the $800,000 net profit to charity.“‘Wow! That’s serious stuff,’ I told myself, and I couldn’t get it out of my head for the next two or three days,” he recalled. “I just kept thinking about it. I couldn’t read that story and not do something. For a moment, I even thought about doing the same thing — selling my house and giving away the money. But then I said, ‘I’m not that bold. I’m not that brave.’”But what the 51-year-old attorney decided to do was almost as radical. He would basically give away his house for a year — leasing it out at $1 a month — letting a homeless family make good use of the three bedrooms, dining and living rooms, big backyard, basketball court and other amenities. And he would move in with his mother to the bottom apartment of a duplex he owned, with his younger sister, Alicia, living above them. For five years his mom, Marie, had been living alone since his father had to be placed in a nursing home after developing Alzheimer’s Disease.In fact, it was Alicia and Marie, both devout Buddhists, who’d had a major impression on him, with generosity being one of the bedrock principles of Buddhism. “You know,” he said, “if I call myself a generous person and trying to be a better Buddhist practitioner and understanding how Karma works — and it’s the same in Christianity, you reap what you sow — then I couldn’t just act like I hadn’t heard about this story and go about my business and do my thing. I realized I had an abundance of housing, and that’s something I could share. “But I’m not devout enough to claim being a devout Buddhist like my sister and mother,” he added with a growing grin. “So I guess you could say I’m an ‘on-again, off-again’ Buddhist.”Tolbert said his father James, an entertainment lawyer, also personified generosity, especially when it came to having houseguests. When he was growing up in the San Fernando Valley, it seemed like there were almost always people around who his dad had invited to stay. They ranged from family members to clients of his father to friends and, at times, even perfect strangers. Many stayed multiple times. And one guest didn’t leave for two years. “So I just kind of grew up, you know, with that mentality that the home was something to be shared with others,” he pointed out. “And even more than that, my father and mother had the idea that we’re all connected at a very fundamental level that goes beyond race, beyond religion, beyond politics. We’re all responsible for each other. “And then it all kind of came together with my sister and mother being practicing Buddhists, and me seeing the subtle shift in them as far as just being more loving, more generous, more service-minded, more selfless. So it encouraged me to be that as well. And this was the perfect opportunity to practice generosity and also to practice letting go in a very real sense — like letting go of the house and a bunch of possessions that I literally stockpiled for ten years. I realized that’s not where happiness is. It’s in how we live our lives and if we can be of service to other people.”‘A family all over again’People like Felicia Dukes and her four children.The single-parent family had been living at Alexandria House since last February, after new owners evicted them from their Inglewood apartment for falling behind in their rent. She loved the hospitality, preschool and child-care, sessions with a financial advisor and therapist, and weekly group meetings. “It’s a real community, especially with Sister Judy and her adopted daughter, Raynisha, living with us.” At one group meeting, the guests wrote down their vision, goals and things they wanted most. Dukes wrote how she wanted her own a house with a yard and also to go back to her true passion, which was teaching preschool.“But I never in a million years expected this to happen,” she said, sitting on a living room couch after all the partygoers had left. “It’s not even going to register, I think, until tomorrow when I wake up and I’m here because of all the moving and goings on today. But this is our very first night, and I’m like: ‘This is really happening.’“I just think Tony has a golden heart. He has this humility of just wanting to help and give of himself. It’s just amazing he and Sister Judy picked us. I just feel so grateful and like honored. He didn’t even know us.”Raylyn told her mom she was “so happy” for her new toddler bed and the grassy backyard. An older daughter loved her blue room with her own bed, desk and dresser. And Nyia observed that the owner of the house must be “an angel on earth coming here to do something good for us.”Kima was simply glad to be back living with his mother and siblings. “Alexandria House was wonderful, but there was a rule of only kids up to 18,” Dukes explained. “That’s why we’re so happy that now we can just come together and be a family all over again.” —January 11, 2013{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2013/0111/house/{/gallery}