A Durham, N.C. library teacher and her family raised over $100,000 to feed hungry children over Christmas.
Turquoise LeJeune Parker’s fundraiser, called Mrs. Parker’s Professors Foodraiser, used the money to purchase, pack and give out more than 5,200 bags of food to students at 12 schools in the city. The teacher raised about $106,000 to help out this year.
As schools are out for the holiday break, many children go unfed. While churches and other organizations try to pick up the slack, there’s a lot of food insecurity for families.
“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 told CNN. “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.”
Parker also gave Newsweek a first-person account of her fundraiser here.
Parker’s Food Fundraiser Goes Far
Lakewood Elementary School Principal James Hopkins told CNN that Parker “has always had an army of donors and volunteers” for her fundraisers.
Hopkins said he was impressed by the many schools that benefitted from this year’s fundraiser.
The mother of one, who dreamed of being a teacher at age 4, said teaching is what she “loves” and “it’s all (she) ever wanted to do.”
Parker guides more than 400 students from kindergarten to fifth grade as a library teacher. She calls her students “Mrs. Parker’s professors” and named the fundraiser after them.
The fundraiser started in 2015 when one student’s parents told Parker they wouldn’t have enough food through the two-week holiday break. Parker said she started thinking with her husband about ways to help out.
Parker remembered sending a Dec. 2015 text to everyone she knew to get support for a food fundraiser. That first year netted $500. Parker said last year came out to $55,000.
This year’s massive amount collected left the teacher “speechless.” She said she had tears of joy and “cried about it a little every day.”
Food Fundraiser Takes Two Weeks To Complete
Parker explained that she raised this year’s money in two weeks. The money goes toward enough food to fill big brown grocery bags for thousands of children.
The food bags include cereal, canned goods, granola bars, mac and cheese.
About 60 volunteers go with Parker to Costco, where they buy the food and pack it over a few days. The group’s goal is to have the bags ready for each school by Dec. 11.
Durham Public Schools applauded Parker for her “perfect mix of competence and compassion” and her commitment to “serving young people holistically.”
With a few years of success, Parker told CNN she wants to make the seasonal project a lifelong one. Her goal is to help feed many children during winter and spring school breaks.