A Chicago-area crossing guard who has devoted years to helping children get safely to school has found that the community she has served for 20 years stepped up in a big way when she faced a heart-breaking crisis.
"She expressed that she was going be homeless by the end of November," parent Gabrielle Walker-Aguilar said, "and it brought me to tears."
"We just thought where would she go, where would she turn?" parent Debbie Klein said.
Deborah Clark stands outside Washington Elementary School, ushering children back and forth, always with a smile or a kind word, sometimes even hugs for the little ones.
"She's there every day. She's never sick," Walker-Aguilar said. "She never takes a day off, she's committed herself to our children."
"She brightens up our day," Klein said. "She brightens up our morning."
But in October, Clark found herself facing homelessness, forced to move out of her apartment where she'd lived rent-free for the past 12 years. She had never told anyone her secret -- that she couldn't read or write, which severely limited her ability tomake extra money.
"I used to just, like, cry or walk around with my head down," she said.
But after Walker-Aguilar learned of her plight, the families of the children she protected stepped in to help.
"It's just something I had to go and tell someone," Clark told "Good Morning America" today.
But she didn't expect what came next -- a new home.
"I was just so stunned. I just couldn't believe it," Clark said. "It just made me feel so good. All I could do was scream and yell."
After learning their children's beloved crossing guard would soon be homeless, Klein and Walker-Aguilar set up a Facebook page and planned a potluck dinner to raise money.
"Within 48 hours I had over 70 e-mail responses," Klein said. "The parents were just so moved to know that someone we care about so dearly, someone who is an extended part of our families, was going to be out on the streets."
Crossing Guard: 'It's Going to Be a Lovely Thanksgiving'
The community rallied further and found Clark and apartment, raising enough money to help her pay the rent.
"Thanks to you, Deb, for brightening our mornings and afternoons with your infectious good cheer!" one anonymous poster wrote on Facebook after donating $50. "We are so happy for you and your family!"
So far, according to the Facebook page in her honor, the community has raised $2,360 through the site's donations.
In return, Clark has vowed to continue her education and learn to read and write, something she had tried in the past but gave up out of frustration. She's doing it, she told "Good Morning America," for the kids she sees every day.
"I'm going to go forward. I'm going to go and make sure I can do what the kids can do," she said. "The kids just put it in me that I can do it."
Clark cried when she saw her apartment for the first time, hugging the parents and thanking them.
She proudly ran around her new home, doing a little dance in her new bedroom before sinking to her knees in gratitude.
"It's going to be a lovely Thanksgiving," Clark said. "It's going to be a lovely Thanksgiving."