A Durham, North Carolina teacher is getting recognized for the above-and-beyond action she takes each year to ensure students in need have something to eat while school is out for winter break.
Turquoise LeJune Parker has been collecting donations every year since 2015 to ensure each of her students is take care of during the holidays.
"This all started with one family," the Lakewood Elementary gym teacher told WKRC. "This mom said, 'We don't have anything at all, I don't have anything for my kids."
In response, Parker and her husband Donald Parker, reached out to everyone they knew to raise funds to purchase food for her 25 students. With the help of attorney Greg Doucette, and other volunteers they got it done and made it a yearly tradition ever since.
This year, Parker and other community volunteers raised over $100,000 to make food boxes for families.
"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," Turquoise said.
This year, the Parker and the volunteers spent more than $100k at Costco to secure holiday food boxes for families at 12 different schools –– reaching 5,000 students.
"I can't sleep unless I know they're ok," the educator said, adding that they do this work to offset the systemic oppression many of the schools' families face.
Parker says she hopes her efforts provides even a bit of relief to her families and has no plans of ending the annual tradition.
"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.