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Why this Costco bill is over $100K: ‘We must take care of each other’

For many kids in the U.S., the upcoming holiday break means food insecurity.
This Costco bill is over $100,000 because a teacher wanted to help her students.
This Costco bill is over $100,000 because a teacher wanted to help her students.Courtesy T. Greg Doucette
/ Source: TODAY

A Costco in Durham, North Carolina, printed its bulkiest receipt ever earlier this month — to the sum of $103,079.70.

Every item in the haul was purchased with donated funds and will provide local low-income students with food to enjoy during their two-week winter break.

Turquoise Parker, a teacher in Durham, started the Bull City Foodraiser in 2015, when she discovered that many of her students were experiencing food insecurity during the holidays without free and reduced-price school lunches. 

“I had a family come to me and say, ‘’We don’t know how we’re going to eat. Can you please help us?’” Parker told TODAY Food

Parker promised that she and her husband, Donald Parker III, would take care of them. 

“But we realized if one family was asking, there were probably a lot more who could benefit from the same thing,” she said. 

Turquoise Parker and her husband, Donald Parker III.
Turquoise Parker and her husband, Donald Parker III.Courtesy Turquoise Parker

Parker fired off a text message to "pretty much every contact" in her phone. "I need to feed my kids for winter break," she wrote. "Can you donate granola bars? Cans of soup? Anything to make sure they won’t go hungry. Please help if you can.” 

Within three days, Parker had enough food for every child in her classroom. 

"One kid, I'll never forget, he was so excited to get a GoGo Squeez applesauce pouch," she recalled. "He said, 'Only rich people get these! Do you know how expensive they are?' Ever since then, I always get them the GoGo Squeez. That's a non-negotiable."

Parker took photos of her 25 students smiling with their bags. She wanted to remember the moment.

"I was just so happy and grateful knowing that they would be OK and comfortable over the break," she explained. "But I still wanted to do more."

And she has. The Foodraiser has grown bigger than Parker could have ever ever imagined with the help of local attorney T. Greg Doucette, who was on the group text that Parker sent in 2015. Doucette is in charge of the fundraising and orchestrated the massive Costco haul that benefited a total of 5,103 students in Durham. Parker coordinates volunteers and makes sure every family has what they need.

"It’s been awesome for me to kind of ride shotgun on this with her and see what it’s become," Doucette told TODAY. 

A woman who asked to be identified only by her first name, Cynthia, describes Parker as "an angel." Cynthia’s godson was one of Parker’s students.

Cynthia and her godson.
Cynthia and her godson.Courtesy Turquoise Parker

"She took us under her wing," Cynthia told TODAY. "One year she helped us with Christmas — she gave for everyone in the house on Christmas. And this year, she helped with Thanksgiving 'cause we didn’t have."

Parker is more happy to help. She loves her community. She was raised by a single mom and knows how hard it can be to put food on the table.

"We don’t make a whole bunch of money as teachers in North Carolina, but I’m gonna do anything I can to make sure my kids eat," she said. "We must take care of each other. We are all called to serve."