Women December 23, 2021 at 01:30 pm

How this teacher just raised more than $100K to feed hungry students over Christmas break

Mildred Europa Taylor | Head of Content

Mildred Europa Taylor December 23, 2021 at 01:30 pm

December 23, 2021 at 01:30 pm | Women

Teacher raises $100,000 to feed hungry students over Christmas break (WNCN, CBS Newspath)

A 34-year-old library teacher at Lakewood Elementary School in Durham, North Carolina, has raised more than $100,000 to buy food to keep over 5,000 students from going hungry over winter break.

Turquoise LeJeune Parker, who has named her project Mrs. Parker’s Professors Foodraiser, has used the money raised to purchase, pack and distribute more than 5,200 bags full of food to students at 12 schools throughout the Durham Public Schools district, CNN reported.

Scores of students in many of the schools she helps rely on the free lunches or low-cost meals provided by their schools. That becomes their main source of food. So during holidays when the schools close, they no more get access to the free lunches provided.

“Mrs. Parker has always had an army of donors and volunteers at the ready, to champion the needs of her students,” Lakewood Elementary School Principal James Hopkins told CNN in a statement. “What’s so impressive is that these efforts have provided students across Durham the same fortune; in this case, of receiving a substantial portion of food over the extended holiday break.”

Parker wanted to be a teacher all her life, she said. The mother of one has been teaching for 11 years now. She teaches over 400 students, from kindergarten to fifth grade, and she loves each of her students.

“I call my students Mrs. Parker’s professors. If that tells you anything, it’s that I believe in them and I love them so very much,” Parker told CNN. “‘I need them to know that I love them, to remind them that love is an action word. I will tell them all day, but I will also show them all day.”

She started thinking about her Foodraiser in 2015 after a parent of one of her students told her at the time that they would not have enough food to eat during the holiday break. Parker said there and then, she realized that other families may be going through similar challenges.

So on December 14, she sent a text to everyone she knew and asked them if they would be willing to donate money to enable her to buy some food items to feed the hungry over the holidays.

In the first year, she raised $500. Last year, she raised $55,000. And this year, she has raised more than $106,000, which has left her speechless. “…I’ve cried about it a little every day,” Parker said. “It took off in a way we could have never expected.”

In each of the big, brown grocery bags for thousands of children in the district this year are foods such as cereal, granola bars and macaroni and cheese as well as canned goods. Parker, with the help of volunteers, delivered them to each school by December 11.

She is grateful to all the people who gave their time, money and talents to make sure children are fed and taken care of.

“Her Foodraiser addresses food insecurity head-on, particularly during a time of year when commercialism brings need to the forefront,” Durham Public Schools said in a statement.

“Through her efforts, our food-insecure students have access to sustenance when schools are closed for the holidays. She is their lifeline.”

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