Presley said her children, daughter Danielle, 11, and son Benjamin, 7, by her first husband Danny Keough, demanded to come with her to Memphis for the groundbreaking. They helped hold the shovel as Lisa Marie turned the first dirt.
Lisa Marie Presley, her daughter and son helped break ground Thursday for Presley Place, the 12-unit housing development for homeless families scheduled to open in January.
With her fiance, rock singer John Oszajca, in the background, Lisa Marie joined officials of Elvis Presley Enterprises, the Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association (MIFA) and the city in the ceremonial launch of a project growing out of Elvis Presley's legendary charitable efforts.
Her Los Angeles publicist declined any interviews with Presley, who spoke briefly, saying she "actually wrote my own speech." In it, she said Presley Place will be the newest part of MIFA's Estival Communities transitional housing program to help homeless families help themselves.
It is a program that "gives hope and opportunity back to those who may have lost it. It is also very important for me personally and my family to be able to contribute and to help my fellow man and to give back whenever and however I can," Presley said.
On a now-vacant lot, at 701 St. Paul, that sits across the street from W. Alonzo Locke Elementary School, MIFA hopes to begin construction by the end of the month with $1.3 million in funds donated by the Elvis Presley Charitable Foundation, the charitable arm of Elvis Presley Enterprises, said MIFA communications director Christi Shaw. She said the donation includes the operating cost for the first five years of the project's operations.
Presley Place will be an addition to 66 units of transitional housing already operated by MIFA. The EPE donation was raised in October during a three-day Las Vegas auction of memorabilia from Graceland's own archives. In all, the auction raised more than $4 million.
EPE chief executive officer Jack Soden said Elvis Presley was born into poverty and spent his first years in Memphis in the Lauderdale Courts public housing project. It was a form of transitional housing that "gave that family hope and kept them together," said Soden.