UNC students give back to one who loves them like her own

Posted March 6, 2015

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— For 39 years, Deborah Paige has greeted students in her job as a cashier at the dining halls of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

For those who get to know her, such as Sarah Adams and Caitlin Ball, her smile and jokes are a daily ritual.

"She's incredibly warm and friendly," Ball said. "She is very encouraging."

Paige refers to Adams and Ball as her babies.

"I just see the God in them, and we just had that connection from day one," she said.

Adams said Paige even knows when a student has been sick or has a test coming up.

"Deborah and I have this going on, and she says, 'Don't let the devil get you down!'" Adams said.

The relationship extended beyond mealtimes to text messages and phone calls.

"They take time for me," Paige said.

When the girls noticed Paige was feeling down about a huge auto repair bill, they prayed about it with friends.

"I know we expected God would do something huge, but maybe like not that huge," Adams said.

The girls had launched a fundraising website, hoping to help Paige with her bills. Within a week, they had $5,000.

"Wooo! I was overwhelmed," Paige said.

"Thanks to their love and support, I was able to put ole Betsy to the side and get something more reliable."

Many of the donations came from students, in increments of $5 and $10.

Inspired by the generosity, the students raised their goal. They hope to raise $79,000 to erase Paige's overall debt accrued over years of serious family illnesses.

"My son has been sick since he was 13, and he is now 33," Paige explained. "My husband was recently dealing with a second bout with cancer, and I had a knee replacement."

The students are hoping to raise enough to help Paige emerge from bankruptcy.

"These are my angels," she said.

"They give me the inner strength that I need to let me know that it is going to be OK, that we're going to get through this together."


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  • Floyd Bridges Mar 7, 2015
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    Is wanting a cafeteria worker to make a livable wage venomous? Absolutely not!

  • Anthony Snark Mar 7, 2015
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    Lawdy lawdy! Lookout, the devil gonna git ya.

  • Jackie Kylander Mar 7, 2015
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    David, I assure you, she has health insurance. But why the snarky remarks on a story about young people doing a good thing? I've never met the lady, but as an undergraduate, there was a housekeeper who took care of my dorm. She always had a smile on her face and we were all her "kids". I'm sure she's long retired or even passed on, but to remember her fondly all these years later, means she made an impact. Mrs. Paige is obviously from the same cloth and she is someone those kids will always remember. Good on them and on her for being a good influence on their lives.

  • Andi Rueny Mar 7, 2015
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    This is indeed a great story ! David and Floyd, why did you have to put venom in it? Where else will you find a cafeteria worker that makes as much or even close as the head of the University or its professors?

  • David Weston Mar 7, 2015
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    Been working for UNC for 39 years, no health insurance and probably making minimum wage while professors get paid for teaching non existent classes and athletes get credit for taking them. What a system!

  • Christopher Rose Mar 6, 2015
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    This makes me very happy.

  • Forest Hazel Mar 6, 2015
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    A very touching story. Wish we could see more like this.

  • Floyd Bridges Mar 6, 2015
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    Great, heart warming story.

    It's always the common, god-loving people who do nice things for each other.

    UNC is known for it's social justice. Why is this poor woman struggling to pay an auto repair bill, while the head of UNC, Carol Folt, earns more than a half million dollars a year?

  • Roy Hinkley Mar 6, 2015
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    That woman does not look like she could possibly have been working for at least 39 years. She looks great.

    Also, nice story.

  • Katie Falls Mar 6, 2015
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    Very sweet.