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GFWC Clubwoman Donna Parker Wins Citizen of the Year Award

by Kenneth Fry, Crawford county Press Argus-Courier (3/17/08)

A city council member and former teacher who does not seek attention or want it for the many ways she gives back to Van Buren was the recipient of the Iverson Riggs Citizen of the Year award given at Saturday night's Van Buren Chamber of Commerce banquet.

In a nutshell, Donna Parker makes Van Buren a better place to live for us all, said Michela Wiley, who presented the 21st annual award.

"I have known Donna for more than 30 years and I can tell you she is a giver," Wiley said. "Her efforts for our community are very selfless and have been going on for many years."

"What I have given is nothing compared to the blessings," an emotional Parker responded.

Parker's past awards include National PTA life achievement award, Sertoma Club's Service to Mankind award, Louis Peer Lifetime Achievement award from the City of Van Buren, Who's Who in American Education, Van Buren School District teacher of the year award, GFWC Women's League of Van Buren woman of the year award, Governor's Volunteer of Excellence award and Community Service Award from the city.

Wiley noted Parker's work on the Van Buren Library Board is one of her greatest enjoyments. Currently board president, she is among those overseeing the construction of a new library at 15th and Main streets.

Board member Jackie Wyatt said Parker is the great advocate and the spirit of the Van Buren Library Board.

"Donna's effort to secure the 'perfect place' for the new library led her to Shirley and Eddie Yeager," Wyatt said. "Their generous contribution of land is making the dream come true, but it was Donna's passion that led to the request."

The $3 million-plus, 19,000-squre-foot library is being construction on land donated by the Yeagers.

"Before any of the present library staff or trustees were serving the community, Donna was there," Wyatt said. "She has led us through difficult times when state aid to libraries was slashed and we had to defend court challenges of library funding. Her leadership made the difference when we worked to pass and extend the library tax initiative."

When the need for Christmas lights in downtown Van Buren was evident, it was Parker who stepped in as the chairman of the fund drive. "The drive was a huge success and we all enjoy those beautiful lights every Christmas season," Wiley said.

"Whether in a lead position, or a support role, she is never in the background when it comes to pitching in and doing the necessary hard work," said Rusty Myers of Western Arkansas Planning and Development District.

Myers recalled when he, Dorvan Wiley and Donna were manning the first recycling trucks in Van Buren on Saturdays.

"It wasn't clean work, but it was a project close to our hearts," Myers said. "Her efforts to establish recycling led to the eventual curbside program we enjoy today."

Parker has served on the city council and Van Buren Advertising and Promotion Commission for 10 years.

One of her fellow councilmen, Alderman Bill Swaim called her "a woman of integrity."

"She is always prepared and is always in attendance at our council meeting," Parker said. "She makes every attempt to make the best decisions for our community."

Parker also works for her church.

Sue Weege of Heritage United Methodist Church said, "She doesn't wait to be told what to do ... she sees a need and does it. She is loved by the congregation because she treats everyone the same with love and respect."

Parker has been very active in the GFWC Women's League, an organization that promotes Van Buren and Crawford County. She has organized many "Make a Difference Day" projects, some through Izard Elementary School, some through Heritage and one with civic groups. She has judged Main Street Halloween costume contests and volunteered at World Series events at the Field of Dreams.

Parker retired from the Van Buren School District at the end of the 2006-07 term.

Her newest additions to a busy schedule include the Master Gardener program with her husband, Johnny, and Keep Van Buren Beautiful.

"Donna is well-known for her sense of humor, positive stance and kindness," Wiley said. "Her dedication to her church, family, friends and her community makes her very deserving of this award."

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