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A teacher raised more than $100,000 to purchase enough food to keep thousands of children from going hungry over winter break

The 34-year-old library teacher at Lakewood Elementary School in Durham, North Carolina, does the whole lot she will be able to to show it, and her latest fundraiser, which collected $106,000 to feed her college students in want, is her most up-to-date gesture of love.

Winter break can imply weeks of food insecurity for children and their households, Durham Public Schools spokeswoman Crystal Roberts advised CNN.

“It’s a basic human right. We’re not talking about raising money to buy people a vacation; this is food, a very, very basic thing,” Parker mentioned. “We need to make sure we take care of our schools, because when we take care of our schools, we’re taking care of our community.”

Her endeavor, which she named Mrs. Parker’s Professors Foodraiser, used the cash she raised to purchase, pack and distribute more than 5,200 luggage full of food to college students at 12 colleges all through the Durham Public Schools district.

In the dozen colleges the mission helps, 98% of the scholars depend on the low-cost or free lunches supplied by their faculty. For many children, it’s their most important supply for food. But as soon as the vacations come round, the colleges shut and so do their cafeterias.

“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 advised CNN in an announcement. “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.”

“I need them to know that I love them”

Parker knew she wished to be a teacher since she was 4 years outdated, sitting on her mom’s bed room flooring, establishing her teddy bears and pretending they had been her college students.

“I wanted to be a teacher all my life,” mentioned Parker, who has been a teacher for 11 years. “This is what I love, it’s all I ever wanted to do, I am living my dream.”

Now the mom of one teaches more than 400 college students, from kindergarten to fifth grade, and her love for them goes past the classroom.

“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 mentioned. “‘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.”

Her promise to keep all her pupil’s fed started in 2015, when one of her pupil’s mother and father confided in her they might not have enough food for the children to eat via the vacation break.

“She told me, ‘I’ll be okay, I can go without eating, but I can’t let my kids go without eating for two weeks.’ It’s really hard to know they have stuff like this going on and not to do everything I can,” Parker mentioned via tears. “My husband and I started thinking, if one family is asking this question, then there must be more.”

Turquoise LeJeune Parker and her husband.

On December 14, 2015, Parker despatched a textual content to everybody she knew, asking if anybody could be enthusiastic about donating cash, so she might present luggage full of food to final them for the entire vacation break.

Progress was sluggish however regular. The first yr, she raised $500. Last yr, she reached $55,000. But this yr proved to be a document, with more than $106,000 donated from folks all over the nation.

“It has left me speechless. I’ve cried about it a little every day,” Parker mentioned. “It took off in a way we could have never expected.”

A lifelong effort

Within two weeks, Mrs. Parker’s Professors Foodraisers raised the cash wanted to purchase enough food to replenish huge, brown grocery luggage for thousands of children within the district.

Each bag contained kid-friendly food, comparable to cereal, canned items, granola bars and macaroni and cheese that may be cooked regardless of a household’s residing state of affairs.

“This is a community effort. This is not $106,000 out of my pocket, this is the result of us operating as a collective,” Parker mentioned. “It’s because of all the people who gave their time, their money, their talents to make sure our kids are taken care of.”

With the assistance of more than 60 volunteers who accompanied Parker to an area Costco, the group bought the food and spent days packing the baggage earlier than delivering them to every faculty by December 11.

Volunteers packing the bags of food.

“Mrs. Parker is a school district’s dream teacher, a perfect mix of competence and compassion who is committed to serving young people holistically,” Durham Public Schools mentioned in an announcement.

“Her Foodraiser addresses food insecurity head-on, particularly during a time of year when commercialism brings need to the forefront,” the assertion continued. “Through her efforts, our food-insecure students have access to sustenance when schools are closed for the holidays. She is their lifeline.”

The fundraiser’s success has impressed Parker to make it a lifelong mission, she mentioned, with an purpose to feed as many children as attainable throughout each winter and spring breaks.



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