“She wants to maintain her independence and be close to her church,” McLaurin’s friend and neighbor Deborah Menkart told ABC News Wednesday. “In order for her to stay close to her church and have a place that’s accessible to a person of her age, she needs to raise funds. We’ve been getting an outpouring from people that said they want to help.”
Menkart, 59, who also conducts oral history interviews on McLaurin, said the centenarian’s only request had been to meet President Obama.
Menkart soon reached out to White House employees Marco A. Davis and Julie Chavez Rodriguez, who made the Feb. 18 meeting possible during a Black History Month reception at the White House, where McLaurin met and danced with Obama and first lady Michelle Obama.
The White House posted the video onto its Facebook page three days later, where it has since received over 63 million views.
“I think it just took us all by surprise,” Menkart, who also attended the event, recalled. “Her own excitement was just overwhelming and it was contagious.”
Now, Menkart and fellow community members have set up a fundraising page for McLaurin, who has lived through 18 presidents, after many of her newly found fans inquired about giving back to the woman who has inspired them so much.
“This donations page was created so that we can all help her have the resources she needs to live comfortably and to continue her active role in the community,” according to the page on YouCaring.com.
In addition to being an advocate with the Latino Economic Development Center, a tenants’ rights organization, McLaurin also volunteers in an early childhood classroom as a foster grandmother, close to 40 hours a week, Menkart said.
“She says that’s what gives her energy; number one is the Lord’s looking out for her and number two is the energy she gets from working with young children,” Menkart said. “We all saw she’s very spry now, but she needs to be in a building that’s wheelchair accessible and meets the needs of an elder.”
The community hopes to raise $50,000 for McLaurin for comfortable housing that’s wheelchair-accessible, with transportation and “core necessities like health care,” Menkart said.