As we all look forward to gathering around the Thanksgiving dinner table, we’d like to share an inspiring story of two good friends who grew up food insecure and now give back through Turkeys for DURM, an initiative that brings together their friends and family to donate turkeys to the Durham community. These are the stories of Johnny J. Jones and John Laww and their personal experiences with hunger:

Johnny Jones

Johnny J. Jones proudly stands in front of the car load of donated turkeys at our Durham Branch.

“Growing up, my family found ways to make sure we did not go without meals. But when I was 15-years-old, the holiday season approached and we knew Thanksgiving was not going to be “traditional.” A Thanksgiving meal was a luxury we simply could not afford at the time. But then something happened. That year, a church organization adopted families to provide Thanksgiving dinners to, and my family was one of them. It was the best turkey I remember mom cooking. She had so much pride about the way it came out. It was so good, so picturesque, so perfect. We made it stretch and ate off of that meal from Thursday to Monday. It was a few needed days of not worrying if we’d have a meal. It left such an impression on me.

My mother and I have spoken about the generosity of our community during those times and it humbles me because through the kindness of strangers, we had a memorable holiday and food on the table. That Thanksgiving meal served as the catalyst for me to launch Turkeys for DURM, my way of paying it forward and making a difference in our community. And what’s been exciting is the way people have made selfless donations to make a memorable Thanksgiving for a lot of people.”

–Johnny J. Jones


John Laww

John Laww unloads the last box of turkeys.

“At 17 I was homeless. I slept in my 84 Bronco while still attending my last year of high school and working two full time jobs. No one knew–my pride kept me from sharing this with my classmates. I worked hard and saved up to get my own apartment, and I’ve been on my own ever since.

Since that event in my life I can appreciate a good meal because you may not know when you’ll eat again. This is why now, since I’m in the position to give, I do my part. Regardless of the season, I give whenever possible because I understand some people may have that same pride as I did and may not ask for help, when in actuality they really need it. Food banks definitely saved my life, and I hope others will pay it forward as well and keep the cycle going.”

-John Laww

This year Turkeys for DURM raised more than $2,200 in just one week. 100 turkeys were donated to our Durham Branch and another 16 to families at Duke Hospital. In two years, more than 270 turkeys have been donated to Durham families that are food insecure through their Turkeys for DURM initiative.


The Turkeys for DURM team outside of our Durham Branch. From left to right: John “The Real” Laww , Johnny J. Jones, and Gabriel Eng-Goetz.

Every year around Thanksgiving we are floored by the outpouring of support from the community. For days our loading docks have been filled with people unloading food donations from their cars. Thanks so much to all of our generous donors for providing hope and happiness to thousands of families through the gift of a Thanksgiving meal! To read more about Turkeys for DURM and other turkey donations at our Durham Branch, check out the article in The Herald Sun.