DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) — In East Durham, Marcella Thompson brings neighborhood kids together with fun and food. It’s a job she’s taken seriously since moving here three years ago.
“This is where I live. This is my home. These are my babies,” Thompson said.
She gets emotional when talking about the children in her neighborhood. She says many of them live in severe poverty.
Among the small group of children she feeds, Thompson says at least one parent is in prison, absent or dead.
On her fixed income, Thompson often feeds these children from her own kitchen.
But this summer, that burden is lifted. The city is now helping her through a $125,000 national grant awarded to the city last year. Charities in the Bull City like Thompson’s, are receiving breakfast and lunch each day to reduce child hunger.
Thompson feeds 35 to 40 kids a day through her charity — The Mustard Seed Project. The city will provide her summer meals through next Friday.
Then, Thompson is on her own.
“The lord says if you have faith of a mustard seed we can do big things,” said Thompson, who says, by faith, she will continue to self-fund her food ministry, which also includes activities from arts and crafts and visits from community leaders to making homemade ice cream from a zip lock bag.
For 13-year-old Jamel Barrett, Thompson is not just providing meals but also hope.
“She cares about the community,” Barrett said.
Thompson says the time she spends with the children in her neighborhood is priceless.
“Even if somebody gave me a million dollars and said, ‘you gotta give up your kids.’ They can take their million dollars. Although, I need it!” Thompson said. “I want the community to know that no matter how little you think you have, or how old you are, or how sick you are, do something in your community. Because it matters.”
Durham is one of six cities across the country to receive the grant. Other cities include: Allentown, P.A.; Jackson, Miss.; Little Rock, Ark.; Miami Gardens, Fla.; and Winston-Salem, N.C.
Although the new grant will stop providing summer meals Aug. 9, it will return as an after-school service once all Durham Public Schools are back in session Aug. 26.
But Thompson says she’ll need the support during the gap. A GoFundMe account has been set up if you want to donate.
As of Friday morning, $8,138 of the $10,000 goal had been raised.