Much as she loved her job as custodian of Hilton Head Island High School, Doris Grant thought this year on the job would be one of her last.
Then, the 62 year old learned in February she was about to lose her Bluffton home of about 20 years. She says she expected to struggle for a while, quietly and alone.
Her students, however, had other plans.
In just one day last month, Grant says, students and other community members donated about $3,000 through a GoFundMe.com page set up by Legacy Planning, a Rock Hill business that specializes in wills, trusts and probate.
The money will go toward helping Grant either move or place an offer on the property where she has lived.
"I just couldn't believe it," Grant said Thursday. "All the bubble gum I pick up and all the fussing I do, I didn't know they loved me like that. That was one of my proudest moments of my kids."
Grant, a native islander, moved to a mobile home on Simmonsville Road about 20 years ago on land owned by her father, Harold White, and his wife, Gardenia.
After her father died without leaving a will in 2000, Grant and her siblings agreed to turn over their rights to the land over to Gardenia White -- who did not return a call to her New York home on Thursday.
Clearing up the title prevented the land from becoming an heirs property, in which many people can claim ownership of one parcel, and allowed White to take out a mortgage on her home.
Grant says White promised she could stay on the land and would have a chance to buy back her portion if her step-mother ever chose to sell the property. She says she trusted White, who helped raise her since she was 9 years old.
While White moved to New York and rented out her home, Grant lived paycheck to paycheck at Hilton Head Island High, where she'd begun working the year her father died.
Working at the school was a relief after decades of juggling three jobs to support herself, as well as leading grassroots efforts like the Underground Railroad and the Carolina Alliance for Fair Employment to improve workers' conditions on the island.
"To live in this millionaire's paradise, we have to work two or more jobs just to barely make ends meet," she told Converge Magazine in 1991.
While Grant began to struggle less and save more in time, she received harsh news in 2012.
The Simmonsville Road property where she lived was under foreclosure, and it was already too late to stop it.
The bank had not placed a notice on her door because it didn't know there was a dirt road behind the red brick house it was trying to repossess, or that the path led to the mobile home where Grant had lived for about 20 years.
Since 2012, she's been hanging onto hope that the property's foreclosure, and eventual sale to a new owner, would not leave her homeless. She says her step-mother stopped taking her calls and emails year ago, and she couldn't afford to move.
Her hope was dashed in February with a notice on her door, alerting her that she must leave the property.
Grant lost her fight in court in March, court records show.
"It's like starting from the beginning," she said.
Andy Jones, a tax consultant with Legacy Planning in Rock Hill, said many Lowcountry residents run into problems with their heirs properties.
Situations like Grant's are less common, though they illustrate one of the key reasons some families hesitate to clear up land titles, Jones said.
If Grant had held onto her interest in the land, her step-mother would not have been approved for a mortgage and Grant would not have to leave, Jones said.
In a few weeks, she will move in with her son in Savannah and begin commuting to a job she can no longer afford to leave.
Grant says the new owner of her father's home -- who could not be reached for comment -- has been understanding, though she doesn't know if he would be willing to sell any of the land.
She says she's most thankful for the help of her students and other members of the community.
As of Thursday afternoon, 77 people had donated more than $4,700.
With their encouragement, Grant says she feels optimistic her situation will improve in the years ahead.
"I'm pretty much a fighter. Always have been," she said. "I just need to regroup again."
To donate to Doris Grant, visit http://www.gofundme.com/s72aqtg.
Follow reporter Rebecca Lurye on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Rebecca.