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The Place gives away two cars to Dawson County families in need
the place cars
Deanna McBrayer (left) stands with The Place Director of Client Services Cristy Ferencie (middle) and The Place CEO/President Joni Smith (right) in front of her 2019 Honda Odyssey, which she recently received as a gift from the nonprofit organization. (photo courtesy of Jacob Granados)

Dawson County resident Deanna McBrayer has had a career in banking for almost a decade and had just purchased a new home for herself and her two children when she became the legal guardian of four nieces and nephews. With the sudden expansion from a family of three to one of seven, McBrayer said she had to figure out how to adjust to the added responsibility.  

“I have a 3-year-old and a 21-year old who still live with me, and now four additional kids too,” McBrayer said. “I don’t get food stamps… so this has kind of been a big adjustment for me financially — I’m capable of taking care of my children, but the grocery bill went out the roof so I didn’t have the money for a new car.”  

McBrayer was taking the changes in stride when she received a call from Sabrina Graves, a social worker at Dawson County Schools. Graves had been working with The Place of Forsyth, which recently expanded into Dawson County earlier this year through a merger with RIC-Rack food bank. 

“Sabrina messaged me and said: ‘they’re giving this van away and I think you would be a great candidate if you wanted to put an application in.’ So I filled out the application and they called me and it was amazing,” McBrayer said. 

The Place was looking for deserving local families to help by giving away cars, and according to Joni Smith, president and CEO of The Place, when they saw McBrayer’s application they knew she was exactly the kind of recipient for the cause.  

“This year we have received several donated vehicles and we are excited to give them to families who need reliable transportation,” Smith said. “We reached out to Sabrina Graves, and she immediately knew of a deserving family. When we heard the family’s story, we knew they were the ones to receive a 2019 Honda Odyssey.”  

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The Place recently gifted a 2019 Honda Odyssey to Deanna McBrayer so she could have a reliable means of transportation for her six children.  (photo courtesy of Jacob Granados)

McBrayer said that she was grateful for any car she might receive, but she was overwhelmed to learn that she would be getting a 2019 Honda Odyssey with only 55,500 miles on it.  

“When they told me that they had this car I was thinking that they had some older-model van and I was very appreciative, but then when they called and showed me the van I was like wow, that’s amazing,” McBrayer said. “They even gave me two free oil changes with it and paid the ad valorem tax.”  

With five of her six children under the age of 13 and three still in car seats, McBrayer said having a car that can fit all of them makes things much easier for her.  

“I can’t leave any of them at home because they’re not old enough to stay at home, so it’s hard to take everybody when they don’t have enough room,” McBrayer said. “It’s perfect because it fits all of us with no issues when we have to go to the park for baseball or T-ball or soccer; and my 21-year-old has her own car and everything but if we wanted to go out to dinner as a full family we could all fit in there.”  

McBrayer said that she and all of the children love the van, and that she hopes her story can inspire those considering donating a vehicle to a good cause to do so.  

“We’re just trucking along, and the van was a big weight off of my shoulders because I have so many other worries but that was one of the big ones lifted off me,” McBrayer said. “If me telling my story can help someone else later down the road that might be in that position, or if somebody might be looking at donating a car and can know that it really does sometimes go to people that really need it, then I’m all for it because it was truly a blessing for us.” 

McBrayer’s family was one of two Dawson County families that received a car from The Place, which has gifted over 20 vehicles to local families in the past five years.  

In addition to expanding its car giveaways to include Dawson County families, The Place will also bring several other programs and services to Dawson beginning in April. Dawson County residents who need benefits like food stamps, Medicaid and child-care assistance can now make a virtual or telephone appointment with The Place’s benefit counselor to help them through the application process.  

The Place will also offer a free three-class parenting seminar to all Dawson County residents, regardless of financial need. The class will take place on Zoom and will be from 6 to 8 p.m. on April 20, April 27 and May 4. Smith said that, especially with all that has happened throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, her hope is that the seminar can be helpful for local parents.  

“The pandemic has brought about many stresses, not the least of which is family stress,” Smith said. “It is important that as parents we remain focused on one of our greatest purposes: parenting. We want parents to know there are tools and tips that may be helpful for them as we continue to weather the pandemic.”  

For more information or to register for the parenting class, email or call 770-887-1098. For more information on The Place and the services it offers, go to