It has been more than a week and I am still finding it hard to put into words just how incredible the 2020 Bull City Foodraiser turned out to be. After raising more than $17,000 in 2019, we had high hopes for 2020, but what would the Foodraiser look like in a year of Covid-19?
Well, this community did not disappoint! In just a few days, more than 1,000 individuals donated $55,000!! Think about just how much food that is. It was a massive logistical effort, but in the end 4,087 Durham elementary students were provided food to help feed their families over the holiday break. That is every student at 10 of Durham’s elementary schools!
Our fearless leaders: Turquoise LeJeune Parker and T. Greg Doucette. The Foodraiser began several years ago after Turquoise reached out to T. Greg about providing much-needed food to the 35 students in her class. Many of her students rely on school for their meals. Holiday breaks mean those children go without adequate food. Their hard work and leadership have helped this project become what it is today! In fact, the Bull City Foodraiser is now officially a 501(c)(3) charity!
For reference, Turquoise is standing on just one of the pallets of peanut butter. In total, three tons of peanut butter was purchased and distributed to the children.
Once the donations were in, a five day effort to purchase, sort and distribute the food began. The first major obstacle, how do you get $55,000+ worth of food picked up and delivered to Lakewood Elementary School? Lowe’s Home Improvement to the rescue! Last year, Lowe’s donated their store truck and several employees to help pick up and unload the food. Their normal delivery truck wasn’t going to cut it this year. So they brought in an 18-wheeler from their distribution center! With help from the incredible folks at Costco (who organized all the food onto pallets), the truck was loaded in no time and off to Lakewood where volunteers were waiting to help unload the precious cargo.
With Covid-19 in mind, the food was strategically placed throughout the gym. This would allow volunteers to be spaced out as bags were being filled.
Costco not only helped organize and package all the food, they also donated 800 backpacks filled with schools supplies.
As if it couldn’t get any better, Lowe’s also donated hundreds of DIY construction kits to go in the bags. Book Harvest also donated 900 children’s books.
Days two and three were all about packing. There were more than 4,000 bags that needed to be filled with food. It took dozens of volunteers the full two days to fill all the bags. Volunteers from Meals on Wheels even joined in the effort.
To help with social distancing, food stations were set up with a volunteer each who unpackaged and organized the food on a table. The rest of the volunteers had carts with bags set up and would stop by each table to fill the bags.
After two days of packing, 4,087 bags of food filled the gym and cafeteria of Lakewood Elementary. This is just the cafeteria!
Days four and five were distribution days. Turquoise worked with school principals to get the message out to students’ families that bags were ready for pickup. Tables lined the bus loop at Lakewood. One group of volunteers moved bags from inside onto the tables while another group of volunteers loaded the backs of car with bags as they pulled into the bus loop.
The mood was certainly festive!
By the time we were ready to start handing out bags, a line had already formed around the bus loop going out of the school.
One of the best parts of the day was getting to watch the teachers greet their students. Since Durham has been all virtual due to Covid-19, this was the first time many were seeing their students in person. The love these teachers have for their students is heartwarming to say the least.
This moment! Aww! I may have shed a tear taking this photo. This family walked over to pick up their food. The little girl ran to Turquoise with her arms outstretch to give her a hug. When Turquoise reminded her they couldn’t really hug, the little girl decided that an air hug would work just as well. Seriously… tears!
Every once in a while, a song would come over the speakers that everyone just had to dance to. Everyone except T. Greg who was standing still in every photo I took of folks dancing! I’ll get him next year.
What made this year’s food drive so incredible was how Durham came together to make it happen. In a year where the world has been turned upside down, businesses, families and the community at large made sure these students would not go hungry during the holidays. The photo above is a young man volunteering alongside his grandmother. The Foodraiser is not just feeding hungry children. It is impacting the lives of so many in our community. The ripple effects are large and positive. Is there really any better way to end a year like 2020?
Congratulations to Turquoise, T.Greg and all the volunteers for their hard work! A big thank you to Lowe’s, Costco, Book Harvest and Meals on Wheels for their support! Here’s to an even bigger 2021!