Story by Kacie Frederick. Photos courtesy of Carter’s House.
Shawana Carter is a generous woman, cultivating a tight, supportive community. She has lived in the Dallas area since she was four years old, and now calls Irving her home. Shawana grew up in a service-based family, which emphasized to her from a young age the importance of giving back to the community. From her early adolescence, Shawana recalls her family’s tradition of feeding the homeless on Thanksgiving every year. Inspired by her father, Shawana refers to his uplifting message regarding community service, “that one gives back because they are supposed to.” After starting her own family, Shawana faced financial issues, and in turn, was the one to receive help from her community. Finding herself and her children living in a motel in a near homelessness state, Shawana recognized she did not have enough money for her children’s school uniforms. Reaching out to Irving’s school district for help, Shawana found the support that she needed. Shawana began to turn her life around, becoming economically stable and decided to finally follow her calling to help others. Shawana’s children’s clothing bank, Carter’s House, was born.
Named after her father, Carter’s House is a nonprofit organization founded initially to provide children’s school uniforms. In Shawana’s first year with Carter’s House, she was able to aid 20 underserved families. In her next year, Shawana served over 350 families. Carter’s House began as a 5×15 storage unit in Irving but now resides in a greater storefront facility in South Dallas. The institution moved beyond its original mission by providing clothing for newborns to those twenty-one years of age, along with baby formula for new mothers.
Shawana’s main goal through Carter’s House is to provide those in need with a community. She wants to build a village where everyone feels comfortable to ask for help. Through her charity work, Shawana fosters encouragement and love for her customers of Carter’s House. She has also assembled allies at food pantries and shelters, so she is able to provide the utmost care for her customers through her resources. Shawana has achieved her intention of community-building as her customers continue to come back to Carter’s House because they know the organization and feel a sense of home there. Shawana’s deep relationships with her customers make her stand out because she develops trust with each person—the key to her success. Shawana also holds her customers to the expectation that they will do their part to reach out when they need help, and they do.
However, during the rise of COVID-19, Shawana was forced to temporarily close Carter’s House to the public. But that did not stop her from giving back to the community. After after accepting an offer from Phillipa Williams, founder of IlooklikeLOVE, to move in to her space during the pandemic Shawana joined in with the work Phillipa was already doing to address diaper need. Partnering with ilooklikeLOVE, the Park South YMCA, and several other organizations, Carter’s House co-hosted a diaper drive on Friday, March 27. Shawana, in partnership with the other organizations and along with a small team of volunteers, were able to give the drive-up families diapers, baby food, and toys to preoccupy their children during these unsettling times. In only two hours, the community partnership served over 300 people, giving away 16,000 diapers. In remembering this event, Shawana expressed how they served those from every economic background—including some individuals she would not typically see. During these times of the Coronavirus, everyone is facing unprecedented challenges. Shawana is only grateful that she can continue to serve.
Additionally, Shawana asks that during this pandemic, the general public remembers the smaller nonprofits. “Most of the time,” Shawana explains, “those in need come to the smaller nonprofits first because they know us.” Because of this relational value, Shawana stresses the importance of donating to facilities such as Carter’s House during a time of crisis.
To encourage local generosity, Carter’s House is participating in North Texas Giving Day on Tuesday, May 5. Shawana hopes to raise $7,000 to help with Carter’s House’s budget for continued emergency services. She, Phillipa, and members of the community partnership aspire to co-host another diaper event, and in the future, a small pop-up store to benefit those in need of children’s clothing. In order to do this, Carter’s House needs donations, which can be scheduled at northtexasgivingday.org/cartershouse.
In these days filled with social isolation, Shawana expresses what she misses most: hugging her customers. She is eager for the days when she can finally love on her customers again as giving comfort to those who are struggling is Shawana’s favorite aspect of her position. Shawana states this is the hardest challenge for her during this time but trusts that COVID-19 will pass. In the meantime, Shawana plans to continue building her village and helping all those she can.
If this story has inspired you to support the North Texas nonprofit community, visit our Support Nonprofits During COVID-19 page to learn how you can get involved!