North Carolina teacher raises over $100K to feed students over winter break

Over 5,000 kids went home with 12-pound bags of food

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A North Carolina teacher raised more than $100,000 to ensure that children in her district would have food for the holidays

Turquoise LeJeune Parker, local attorney T. Greg Doucette and a band of volunteers were able to procure enough food so that more than 5,000 students – or "professors" as Parker calls them – in Durham Public Schools could go home with over 12 pounds of food for the two-week break.  

Mrs. Parkers Professors Foodraiser in Durham, North Carolina. 

Mrs. Parkers Professors Foodraiser in Durham, North Carolina.  (Turquoise LeJeune Parker)

Mrs. Parker's Professors Foodraiser is an annual tradition that began seven years ago after a parent asked Parker where her family could find food over the break.    

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Parker, who had been working at Eastway Elementary School, soon realized that if one family needed help, others probably did as well. 

She immediately texted every contact on her phone for help. 

"I'm trying to send each of my 22 kids home with a bag of nonperishables to help their families with them being out for Christmas break. If you know anyone wanting to donate, let me know," Parker wrote during the 2015 holiday season. 

That Christmas, everyone in her entire class went home with food. A year later, they were able to feed an entire grade and in 2017, two grades went home with food. 

Parker's "foodraiser" gained so much support that they were eventually able to feed children within multiple schools with all the donations. 

This year, they were able to feed more children than ever before. 

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After raising more than $103,000 Parker and Doucette went to a local Costco where they packed up an entire 18-wheel truck, donated by Lowe's, with food. The home improvement retailer also donated a forklift, bags and sent employees to assist with the packing. 

A picture of the Costco bill after Turquoise LeJeune Parker and T. Greg Doucette bought all the food for the children in Durham, North Carolina. 

A picture of the Costco bill after Turquoise LeJeune Parker and T. Greg Doucette bought all the food for the children in Durham, North Carolina.  (Turquoise LeJeune Parker)

The food was taken to Lakewood Elementary School where volunteers packed it in individual bags for the children. The bags were then put in U-Hauls and driven to 12 separate schools. 

"We are DONE! The 7th Annual Mrs. Parkers Professors Foodraiser is DONE!! AND we finished before dark. We’ve delivered a bag of groceries for EVERY student at 12 Durham Public Schools for the winter break," Parker wrote on Facebook last week. 

In order to accomplish her mission, Parker said it takes an entire community. 

For five years, the families that Parker used to work with in Chapel Hill donated toys for the children as well. 

In 2019, Lowe's also started lending a helping hand. The company donated Christmas trees for the children and a truck to pick up the trash and recycling from the packing event.  

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Mrs. Parkers Professors Foodraiser in Durham, North Carolina. 

Mrs. Parkers Professors Foodraiser in Durham, North Carolina.  (Turquoise LeJeune Parker)

"I will do anything for Mrs. Parker's Professors. But I can’t do everything for them by myself. In our union, we say we are #InThisTogether. That’s word, that’s action, that’s community," Parker said.