The Durham woman who has raised more than $60,000 to pay off Durham students’ school lunch debts now needs the community’s help.
The parents of Rebekah Miel, also known as the “Durham Lunch Lady,” lost their 2812 Split Rail Place home — along with their beloved dog Maya — in a fire Tuesday morning.
Cathy and David Meek, Miel’s parents, were not home at the time of the fire. Firemen buried Maya, who was unable to escape the blaze.
“Unfortunately, they had a dog and she didn’t make it out,” Miel said. “They’d just lost their other dog five months ago when it was hit by a car, so they were devastated.”
Miel has started a page on the crowdfunding website YouCaring (youcaring.com/cathyanddavidmeek-1064536) to raise $10,000 to help her parents replace clothing and other necessities while the wait for the insurance process to run its course. More than $7,500 had been raised by late Friday afternoon.
“They were luckily insured, but it will only cover a small portion of the loss,” Miel said of her parents.
She said the family lost five generations of photos in the fire and noted that the house was a central meeting place for family.
“The house was like the center of our family and they’d just gotten it to where they thought it should be, so that’s hard for them,” Miel said. “It’s where we have all of our memories.”
Miel said her parents are going to rebuild the house on the same site. Money raised through YouCaring will help pay expenses not covered by insurance.
But in the meantime, her parents are living with Miel and her family.
“I have an office and I’m getting them set up in there,” Miel said. “They have a lot of family support.”
Miel said her parents have always helped family and community members in need.
Her dad David, who now works part-time at Lowe’s after a career spent working in the construction industry, builds fences and wheelchair ramps for people who need them.
“They do everything for everybody, for their family and community,” Miel said. “I want their lives to go back to normal as quickly as possible.”
Miel said her mom looks after all of the family’s children.
“She is the reason I’ve been able to do the lunch debt campaign,” Miel said. “She was taking care of my kids.”
Miel initially created a GoFundMe page in mid-November to raise $4,500 to pay off the lunch accounts for students who receive reduced-price lunches.
But she soon expanded the effort to include the district’s entire $103,000 lunch debt.
The GoFundMe campaign has raised more than $64,000.
“Doing those months, Rebekah [Miel] worked tirelessly to raise awareness about this issue,” Abby Sheriff, one of Miel’s friends wrote in an email message. “Through her efforts, more than $60,000 went toward paying off debt so that hungry students can eat a hot lunch during their school day. Rebekah helped a lot of kids. And now, she needs your help.”