By Teresa Hagen
Barbara Parks’ commitment and enthusiasm toward volunteerism should be bottled for sale like a community service energy drink.
Since retiring in 2003 from the CSULB Office of Public Affairs and Publications, Parks has served on the 2003-04 Orange County Grand Jury (Editorial Committee chair, historian, and member of Criminal Justice and Juvenile Services Committees); Boy Scouts of America’s Orange County Council International Committee (member/secretary), National Eagle Scout Association Chapter for Orange County (Executive Committee member) and Troop 658 (committee member); National Lutheran Association on Scouting (national newsletter editor); Long Beach-Yokkaichi, Japan Sister City Association (board member/secretary); and helped build a Habitat for Humanity house in October, to name a partial activities list.
“Volunteerism is a very important part of my life, and I’ve made so many wonderful friends through my involvement in all my different Boy Scouts activities, as well as the Long Beach-Yokkaichi, Japan Sister City Association and other things I’ve been involved in,” said Parks, a native of Fort Wayne, Ind., and Indiana University journalism alumna.
“I raised my son as a single parent from when he was about 4 years old,” she continued. “I believe he had wonderful male role models in Boy Scouts and really good friends, so I felt it was important for me to give back to the organization, too. I really enjoy it.”
Parks is also passionate about her work with the First Lutheran Church of Long Beach, where she serves as the member-at-large on the Ministry Council, editor of the monthly newsletter First Things, and volunteers for two programs that focus on inner city children, Saturday Growing Days and Save America’s Youth (SAY) Yes!.
“I have a commitment to serve, particularly by working with children from the inner city,” she said. “We want to help them to grow up to be good citizens and to give back to their communities. That’s why I enjoy working with the children. It’s a real blessing and I know they really care about me.”
On Oct. 2, Parks volunteered for the 10K Team Spirit Walk for Breast and Ovarian Cancer, which benefits cancer research and treatment at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center's Todd Cancer Institute. The event had special meaning for Parks, as she was diagnosed with stage IIIc ovarian cancer in 2008 and experienced a reoccurrence in spring 2010, though she is once again in remission. In support of Parks, the children from the SAY Yes! Center walked the 6.3 miles, raising $434.
“The fact that the children were willing to get up on a Saturday morning and be there by 7 a.m. to walk 6.3 miles for me was overwhelming,” Parks commented. “I’m thinking of one little boy who is just in first grade, that he was able to walk that distance. Everyone completed the walk, which was amazing to me. That really touched my heart very much, as did the fact that two of my former CSULB colleagues, Vicki Waller and Liz Labrador, also supported me in the event.”
Another source of support for Parks is her son David, daughter-in-law Kyoko and grandsons Noah and Kai. “My family was a wonderful support for me during my surgery and chemotherapy when I was first diagnosed with ovarian cancer,” she said. “My daughter-in-law took great care of me. One thing keeping me going through chemo was I wanted to live for my grandsons—be a part of their lives, just as I want to be a part of the lives of the children in our SAY Yes! Center.”
As a CSULB staff emerita, Parks is also no stranger to the campus. Along with her service to the Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden and the Association of Emeriti as co-president, she is a familiar face at Commencement events, the Center for International Education, and will often volunteer with the Alumni Association. On occasion, she takes classes at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.
Once a month, she joins other staff emeriti for lunch and an occasional field trip, and once a year, this group helps choose, with the assistance of Alumni Association’s Leticia Lozoya, recipients of the Dorothy de Araujo Memorial Scholarship, named after the university staff emerita and alumna who died in the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, while flying home to California from Boston.
“Even though I’m not an alum of Cal State Long Beach, I feel such an affinity toward the university because I spent 39 years of my life working here,” Parks explained. “I love the university. I’ve made a lot of good friends on the campus. I just want to continue to be involved and help in any way I can.”