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Meet Shawana Carter of Carter’s House in South Dallas

Today we’d like to introduce you to Shawana Carter.

Shawana, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Whew! How did we get here? Carter’s House was started in my living room, literally. Ten years ago, my husband and I were separated and after six months apart, we decided to get back together. We were destroyed financially and we found ourselves living in a motel with three of our four children for about five months. We always had more month than money. We were just trying to figure out how we would be able to feed and shelter these kiddos. As we got closer to the start of school, we just didn’t have money for school uniforms for our then 1st and 8th graders. We were both gainfully employed, just part of the working poor.

We live in Irving and our school district has a program for families in situations like ours. They were able to help our 1st grader, but they did not have anything large enough for our 8th-grade son. It was an eye-opening experience. I realized that the help was needed and appreciated, but if we had been in a stable housing environment, we may not have qualified for assistance from the district. Fast forward four years and I have worked several jobs because I couldn’t find the one that fit me anymore. I always knew that I was here to help others, but I wasn’t sure how to do this. So I prayed. God answered. He gave me Carter’s House.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
This has not been an easy road, as a black woman in a field dominated by white men, but God has always supplied exactly what the organization needed right on time. I have had the pleasure of being mentored and educated by some knowledgeable men and women in this business, but that doesn’t mean I always listen. I bump my head quite often. Then, I do it the way it was suggested and it works.

I walked into this field knowing what I wanted to accomplish, but I had no clue how to make it happen. I have participated in several cohorts that have helped shape my view of running a non-profit organization. As a founder/ Executive Director, it is an important part of my business that I keep learning to help the organization grow. I have participated in Cause Studio and the Thriving Non-Profits Cohort put on by United Way Metropolitan Dallas, The State Fair of Texas, and the University of Texas at Dallas. In these classes, I was able to learn everything from budgeting and board management to donor retention and lessons on collaboration and partnership. I was just recently accepted into Leadership ISD where I will be learning more about the inner workings of Dallas Independent School District and learning how to affect change in the community where I work and live.

I have learned so much and one of the most important lessons have to always remember that Carter’s House is a business, we are just in the business of charity.

Please tell us about Carter’s House.
Carter’s House is a no-cost clothing bank located in Sunny South Dallas. We provide families with a one-of-kind shopping experience and give them access to quality clothes for their children, youth, and teens living in homeless and hard-working, low-income families in North Texas. In addition to clothing, we p provide Informed-Trauma care to our customers. We do this by wholistically addressing the issues outside of providing clothing for their children in an effort to ensure that the family unit is well and all needs are met. We provide clothing to children ages 0-18 (21 if a high school student). Annually we serve approximately 1,700 children and the number continues to increase each year.

Carter’s House provides baby clothes, undergarments, socks, shoes, belts, jeans, t-shirts, coats, etc. but our highest demanded items year-round are school uniforms. We provide them from the first Monday in August until April 30th of each school year.

As an organization, we are so very proud that the families we serve recommend us to their friends and family when they are in need because they know we genuinely want to help and they will be treated with dignity and respect by our staff. Every person that works with us understands, that we do not spend our days focused on the numbers of people we see, but instead on how we treat those people. We are re-building people and communities in our office and at events.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
I wouldn’t change a thing. This is exactly where I am supposed to be and I learned everything, the easy way or the hard way, exactly the way I was supposed to learn it.

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Image Credit:
NaturalState Images

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