By Rick Hemphill
Photos by Josh Triggs
Miracles are the stock and trade of the Christmas season focusing on good food, friends, family and most of all children. Santa’s workshops hum throughout the year to make sure that children awaking on that special morn to a magical tree trimmed with light and hope to find their toys to frame the games of the New Year. In Berkeley County the lights on the trees of over 800 children are dim and Dawn Brown works as hard as Santa’s elves all year to bring a Christmas miracle to as many of those families as she can through the Family Charities of Berkeley County, which she formed with Lisa Catalano of Master Dry.
“My goal is to put a smile on a child’s face,” Dawn says her eyes flashing with the passion of her belief in the future. “Whether it is one or 100 children, that is what it is all about for me.” “Let us make sure each child is taken care of and leave no child left behind for Christmas.” “My baby is 17 and it will be tough to let him go to college.” “He is the reason I got in this.” “He brought a light into my life and I want to do that for kids who don’t have that kind of relationship with their parents and aren’t as fortunate as mine.”
Each year Dawn has been able to reach out to more children. “Last year we helped 40 families,” Dawn explains. “We spend $125.00 per child divided between clothes and toys and we provide them with a full Christmas meal with turkey and all the trimmings mostly through our local Wal-Mart.” “We did a banquet the first couple of years with Santa and a catered meal at a local church.” “I started out trying to do all the shopping for 100 kids and get them what they wanted but that was a difficult.” “We don’t have the manpower to put on the banquet anymore and now I take the parents to Wal-Mart and let them do the shopping.” “I just wait at the register and slide the card and pay the bill.”
“Next year we hope to get back to the banquet because I like meeting the kids and they don’t come along when we do the shopping.”
Dawn is committed to her community and uses her relationship skills throughout the year to assist families as an insurance supervisor for Transamerica Premier Life. “I love what I do,” Dawn says with a well earned pride in her accomplishments. “I have a passion helping people whether it is leaving a legacy for their family and helping families cope with a tragedy or making sure a business can continue to operate.” “It is important to me to be able to hand them that check to help them keep their life going.” “I am constantly networking, making relationships and finding people I can help.”
“You would be amazed at how many people don’t have a clue about what they will need if they lose the income of a family member,” Dawn says. “I go in and do a financial analysis and then tell them what they need based upon their affordability.” “I like to talk and help people so this is a career that is perfect for me.”
Dawn’s optimism, drive and determination have served her well as she traveled over the rolling hills of the panhandle. “Before this I was in retail and working 60 hours a week was not uncommon” Dawn explains noting the changes needed after her son Dylan was born. “After a divorce I moved back to Berkeley County and I needed a job with more flexible hours.” “I started my career at Baltimore Life.” “They gave me 30 days to get my license and I was scared to death of failing the test.” “I never want to fail at anything.”
That fear fuels her determination to excel at parenting and her career. “My insurance career is very good to me,” Dawn says with a large smile.
“With Transamerica I am a senior sales manager and I have people to train and that takes a lot of my time these days but I work totally around Dylan’s schedule.” “I am single mom and he is what I do everything for.” “He is the light of my life.”
“After 2 years I moved onto Monumental Life which is now Transamerica Premier Life,” Dawn remembers. “I’ve sold life Insurance, whole and universal life, health, annuities, short and long term disability, although I concentrate on life and small businesses.” “I work all 4 states and every year since I’ve worked I have made conference.” “I am also a million dollar round table qualifier which is one of the highest prestigious honors you can get in the insurance business.” “I feel very lucky to work for such a great company.” “What sets me apart are my ethics and my ability to build relationships with people.” “I service over 1000 clients.” “If my client calls I am there to help him.” “If my phone rings I will answer.” “I have been successful because I care.” “You have to do what is right, not just what sells.”
Dawn has a history of doing what is right. “It has been a while but when my stepson, who is now 27, was going to be a freshman at Clear Spring High School, in Maryland they didn’t have a football team,” Dawn says with a pride of accomplishment.
“I went to the Board of Education and asked them what it would take and we raised $50,000 to start the high school football team.” “We started out selling sandwiches, had bonanzas and we bought the scoreboard and picked up all the uniforms.” “This is their 11th year.”
This time of year her focus settles on toys and Christmas. “The kids would set on Santa’s lap and it would break your heart,” Dawn recalls. “We had kids ask for a bed, or their vision back.” “Some families have 6 kids or more and our sponsorships are down over 50% from last year.” “I think people are cutting back and don’t have the money.” “We go and talk to the guidance counselors to find out who needs the most help at the school.” “We get all our turkeys donated through the Church of Martinsburg, where my father is a very active member, and we do a couple different food boxes at different locations.” “There are a lot more people needing help and a lot more people asking for help, and we need more people to get around.”
“If I have toys left over we sent them to the women’s shelter and the homeless shelter,” Dawn says. “A lot of people don’t think about them.” “If they have any kids in there on Christmas eve we will take toys and clothes into them.” “That is the last thing we do before Christmas.”
And then starting in January she begins planning for next Christmas. “We try to grow every year and this year is the first year our growth will be minimal,” Dawn relates. “Next year we hope to get out more and be more visible and get more sponsorships.” “I would like to get up to about 200 kids and we try to go up 20 kids a year or better.”
“With over 800 kids in the county that need help I would like to handle a third of that because there are always kids that get left out.” “We are not solely dedicated to Christmas if people have a fire or need help during the year they can contact us.”
“We have a face book page “Family Charities of Berkeley County.” “We like to do a Christmas in July to get a head start on our Christmas toy drive and all year long we get involved with the toy auctions and with the Rotary Club.”
“My goal is to put a smile on a child’s face whether it is one or 100,” Dawn says with absolute honesty. “That is what it is all about for me.” “Fun for me is knowing that I’ve helped someone.