‘I Can’t Sleep Unless I Know They’re OK’: North Carolina Teacher Raises Over $100,000 to Feed Students at 12 Different Schools Over the Holiday Break

A North Carolina teacher is being praised after raising over $100,000 to feed hungry students over the holiday break. 

Turquoise Lejeune Parker, a teacher at Lakewood Elementary in Durham, began seven years ago to collect donations during the holiday season in order to purchase items for care packages that includes food items students can eat while they’re away for two weeks — taking one less worry off their shoulders this holiday season.  

Thanks to several volunteers and very generous donors, Parker and her husband Donald Parker were able to purchase more than $100,000 worth of food from a local Costco this year, bringing in enough food to feed more than 5,000 students at 12 different schools.

“This all started with one family; one family sent me a message in 2015. This mom said, ‘We don’t have anything at all, I don’t have anything for my kids,’” Parker told reporters at Local 23 News.

Parker initially sought to feed 25 of her students, which she accomplished thanks to her husband, their friends, and attorney Greg Doucette.

The following year, the group decided to see if they could pull it off again, this time helping even more students in need. “We were able to feed the whole grade level, and then two grade levels, and then the whole school, and then three schools, and it kept growing,” the teacher revealed. 

Parker told the outlet that most students at the school are Black and or of color, and many are on either free or reduced lunches, so she feels obligated to help out. 

“I can’t sleep unless I know they’re OK,” she explained. “We owe this to everyone who is suffering from systemic oppression. Our folks are struggling to provide the very basic needs — food, water, and a place to live. That’s ridiculous.”

Parker was praised for her efforts by folks on Twitter, who also took the time to comment on the holes in the social safety net. “What an Awesome and Fantabulous job Turquoise LeJeune Parker!” wrote one user. 

“It doesnt get anymore dystopian than a wage slave providing what the wealthiest nation in the world won’t,” commented another.

“These are the people that need to run for office and be elected,” wrote third.

Parker told the outlet she doesn’t plan to stop her holiday charity drive efforts anytime soon.

“It’s truly mind-blowing at how fast this grows. Really, like, my heart really just wants to make sure my babies are OK,” she said. 

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