DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Maria Maya can't consider buying Christmas gifts for her three children because she barely makes enough to cover her rent and other expenses. The single mom works as a kitchen operator at a party rental company.
"It's hard. I want to get them a lot. You know? Meet all their needs, but I can't," she said. "They are super awesome kids so that's why the tears because I'm blessed with them."
Wiping tears, Maya explained her situation as she sat next to three of her six children. Her son Anthony is 11 years old.
"We're not spoiled kids. We know how hard she works and how she feels," said Anthony Benson.
It's stories like this that pull at Turquoise Parker's heart. She has organized the Bull City FOODraiser for the last eight years.
"Food insecurity is real and sometimes we don't understand what folks are going through because they don't want to share," said Parker.
Inside the Lakewood Elementary gymnasium, it's an all-hands-on deck effort. Spirits are high as teachers and student helpers pack up for the cause. Parker has been an educator for 12 years and has seen students face food insecurity in real time.
"Everything in the bag can be used no matter what your living situation is. So if you don't have a stove, you can still make use of all these things," said Parker.
This foodraiser wouldn't be possible without donors in the community.
"It lets students know they have food safety when they are away from school and have time away from our services so it's really something that impacts families positively," said Lakewood Elementary Principal Jeri Jackson.
This is an effort that organizers say has the power to change lives, and families set to receive it couldn't agree more.
"I don't get paid a lot and it's a struggle. So, this helps a lot," said Maya.