Jim Parker | Senior Crew and Golden Hammer Legacy Society Member
Jim Parker has volunteered for Habitat for Humanity since 1995. He is one of the founding members of the Senior Crew and responsible for the recruitment of dozens of our current Senior Crew. Collectively, he may have been instrumental in over 150 present and former Kimberly Clark employees volunteering for Habitat. And Jim remembers why he did this with a single story.
“It was one of the first Habitat homes we were doing” recalled Jim. “There was a grandma, a mom and a little 5 year old boy. They were building on a foundation of a burned out building we had been donated on the east side of Appleton. Every day the grandma would bring the 5 year old by the work site and we became friends. I’d tease him and he became my little buddy. At the dedication, after the cutting of the ribbon, the little guy grabbed my little finger and pulled me into the house. He took me down the hallway. He launched himself into the bedroom, somersaulted and jumped up exclaiming Jim, I finally have my own bedroom!”
“Any doubt I ever had about volunteering for Habitat was gone forever.”
Jim was born in Neenah and moved as a child to Niagara Falls, New York. He came back to Appleton and then the family moved to Niagara, Wisconsin. Jim came back to Appleton to enroll in Lawrence University and moved onto the Paper Institute. He graduated with a doctorate in paper chemistry in 1962. The family joined KC and was immediately sent to Memphis and then Alabama. Jim came back to Appleton in 1966 and spent the next decades with a very successful track record with the company.
As Jim was approaching retirement in 1995, his church was working with the new Habitat affiliate on the build. Jim first volunteered hanging siding. “I hated it. To this day I still try to avoid siding” said Jim. He has now volunteered or been a site leader on an estimated 150 of the 200 homes Greater Fox Cities Area Habitat for Humanity has built.
Jim was asked to join the board of directors due to his professional background. He admitted not knowing anything about building houses but his fellow board members helped train him. The Board of Directors was a working board at that time. “We would work on everything as the board. We were volunteers with only one part time staff person.”
Asked to put together a job description for the appointment of an executive director of the young organization, Jim was completing the task when the potential director tragically died. That left only a part time employee named John Weyenberg as a candidate for the position. “The Board was impressed with John’s potential. I remember being the sole board member who thought we should broaden the search. He seemed too young for the position. I am happy to report that I was wrong in my opinion.”
With the new director, Jodi Isom, Jody Harkness and Rod Voland were hired in the next few years. Jim and the board would ask then AAL (now Thrivent) for funding and volunteers. “I realized we needed more people and I tapped on anyone at KC I knew. I remember getting Bob Christenson, Paul Rieden, Dave Heyn, George Elias, Craig Booher and anyone I could convince they could be having as much fun as I was.”
The growth of the affiliate was starting to put a tremendous strain on the construction supervisors. “We realized we needed more people to be able to supervise the tasks on the sites. I don’t recall it being called the Senior Crew right away but we needed people to step up and I joined.” “Thank God cellphones had been invented for those first days of leading a crew. But we grew in training and confidence and it allowed us to do so much more.”
Jodi Isom then asked me if I would write a letter to the editor to talk about volunteering for Habitat. She recalls her phone practically ringing off the hook and every sentence started with “I saw Jim Parker’s letter in the paper and I know him from (blank).” Having someone as well-known and well-liked as Jim writing about being a self-described “old coot who didn’t know beans about building” turned out to be the perfect recruiting tool. Jim did this annually for several years and helped create the flood of volunteers seeking to work with Habitat.
Jim has been with Habitat for 20 years and also is part of the “Golden Hammer Legacy Society.” When asked about his dreams for Greater Fox Cities Habitat for Humanity, he responded “I don’t think I could have dreamed of all that would be accomplished. The broadening of the mission, all the work that has been done with families, financial education, home repair….”
“I was especially struck with Rock the Block and how Mayor Hanna talked about the need to prevent the creation of ‘inner city’ neighborhoods. We were doing something about it. We were solving the problem. That was truly remarkable.”
“I am most proud that my son and daughter-in-law are now starting to get involved with Habitat in the Twin Cities, where they live. It is great to see them having the fun I have always had.”
We’re looking for the next generation of Jim Parkers for our Senior Crew. Is that you or someone you know? Help Jodi’s phone ring off the hook by calling (920) 967-8882 or email at [email protected] for more information on the Senior Crew.