How you can help families in need this holiday season

By Victoria

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Delores Dawson is a grandmother. She's 62 years old and a retired Charleston County school teacher who still works part-time caring for others in need at their homes.{}

She should be enjoying her golden years, playing with grandchildren and spending time at her church. But this summer, she buried her daughter.

"It's the hardest thing I ever had to go through," said Dawson. "She was so loving and caring, always there for others, always had a laugh."

Thirty-four-year-old Zakiya Lawson was shot to death in June police say, by her ex-boyfriend who then turned the gun on himself.

"Every time the 3-year-old hears a loud noise, he puts his hands over his ears," said Dawson.{} "He thinks it's gunshots."

The death of Delores Dawson's daughter left seven children, ages one to 16 years old, orphans. She suddenly had a new role.

"I'm back to being a mother all over again," said Dawson. "It's totally different now, getting up in the morning, going to school and meetings after school."

Dawson now shares her two bedroom, North Charleston home with a 1-year-old, a 3-year-old, a 5-year-old, a 13-year-old, a 14-year-old, a 15-year-old and a 16-year-old.

"Dealing with teenagers in something new again," she said.

Dawson's husband died several years ago, but fortunately she is not alone raising her grandchildren. She has four daughters who pitch in, helping to feed, bath and care for them.

"It is hard but we pull together. We are making it happen," Dawson said.

They have plenty of teamwork, but not enough money. Feeding and clothing seven kids is expensive. Then, there are the little things.

"We go through a lot of toilet paper," she said.

So the thought of providing Christmas, the first since losing their mother, is more than Dawson can bear.

"This is the first time I've had to ask for help. It's not easy. I've been working since I was 16, always took care of myself," she said.

Dawson turned to Families Helping Families, a nonprofit that helps brighten the holidays for those who would otherwise go without.

"We are a holiday gift-giving program that provides food, clothing, gifts and hygiene items to families in need," said Shelli Quenga who works with the nonprofit.

Quenga says the families selected are considered the neediest and they are screened and referred to by social service agencies. Many are like the Dawsons, people who have long taken care of themselves but have simply fallen on tough times.

"In some of these families, the breadwinner has been unexpectedly laid off or has become disabled," said Quenga. "In other instances, it is an elderly individual living alone, a foster child, or a poverty stricken family with a special needs child."

Whatever the situation, they need help and this is where you come in. You or your business can sponsor a family or single individual by contacting Families Helping Families. The nonprofit will match you with those in need and give you a holiday wish list.

But it's not your typical list.

"They ask for hygiene products, cleaning items, diapers, towels, soap, laundry detergent, basic household products, toothpaste and tooth brushes," said Quenga. "So many families throughout the year go without these basics."

Perhaps you can't shop, but you still want to help. Quenga says you can always donate money or volunteer.

"Whatever they can do, we'll be really appreciative," said Dawson. "Never in a million years did I expect this."

To get involved, go to or call (843) 724-7100.

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