Community partnership helps Burton Elementary through the pandemic

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DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Every Thursday morning, members of the Triangle Park Chapter of The Links Inc. haul in boxes of food from the Durham food bank to Burton Elementary School so students don't go hungry during the weekend.

"To combat food insecurity, to give good nutritional health and to fight childhood obesity," said Triangle Park Chapter member Dr. Katrina Howard Avery.

On this Thursday, this group of volunteers brought even more. They brought donations of colorful cloth masks for students, N95 masks for the staff and a variety of warm hats and gloves for when students aren't at their computers.

Burton's principal, Dr. Kimberly Ferrell, said community connections mean everything.

"Without having those connections, it's impossible," Ferrell said. "Without The Links, we don't know what we would do to be able to provide the needs for our families."

The Links makes sure it knows what students need through constant contact.

"We communicate regularly about dropping things off and donations as well as finding out what their needs are," Avery said.

When students left the classroom to learn virtually at home because of the pandemic, they also left behind their desks. School leaders quickly learned that many Burton students didn't have a desk at home for distance learning.

"Doing virtual learning, you see it. We saw kids laying in bed. We saw kids crouched up on couches. Not at a table," Ferrell said. "They didn't have anything to put their computer on, so we knew there was a need and as always, when I go to The Links and say I got a need, they provide."

The organization's members collected money to purchase 80 folding tray tables for the students to use allowing them to focus on their studies at home.

"And they love them. The kids love them. We have people in other communities that wanted to know where we got the desk from for our students," Ferrell said.

Having a designated home workspace also helps to relieve stress for parents such as Ashlee Craig, who has a fourth-grader at Burton.

"I'm used to working, so I haven't been working and we've all been at home together so I love it, but it's a challenge," Craig said.

Being away has also taken an emotional toll on students like her son Adrian, who loves Dr. Ferrell and his school.

Ferrell said it's the little things, such as the donations from The Links, that lift their spirits.
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