In The Spotlight
Charles Parker is the new face on Water Street By Dan Nephin, Staff Writer email@example.com
Charles Parker wasn't expecting his career arc to bring him to Lancaster.
Even so, it's been a good start for Water Street Ministries' new president.
"I'm so impressed with the Lancaster community, to support Water Street," said Parker, 51, who started Feb. 19.
"Downtown Lancaster is what a lot of communities aspire to,'' he said, citing the city's diversity in arts, dining and livability.
He comes from the Rescue Mission Alliance of Syracuse, N.Y., where he was executive director.
After 14 years there and with all but one of his five children out of the house, it was time to look elsewhere.
Over the years, he had developed professional relationships with past Water Street presidents Dick McMillen and Jere Shertzer, who left in July.
Parker was interviewing for another job when he heard from Water Street.
"And literally I told the person: 'Thanks so much for calling, but I think tomorrow I'm going to be accepting a job and moving to this community,' " he said. But because the person was with Water Street, he sent his resume.
He found out the next day he didn't get the other job. He continued looking, but Water Street kept popping up.
He's still getting to know everyone, so it's too early to talk goals, he said. So far, he's been impressed with the staff.
Parker said working with the homeless is his passion, though, as with coming to Lancaster, it was unexpected.
After graduating, he began working as a pastor in his home state of Florida.
It didn't work out as he thought and he found himself mowing lawns -- "I say I tended to view myself as a lawn technician," he jokes.
He spotted a newspaper ad for a homeless counselor at a shelter.
"I felt a nudge by God to respond to that ad," he said.
He got it and his first week, he was dealing with Haitian boat people.
One mother was so mentally ill that she was unable to care for her baby. The child was placed in state care and the mother institutionalized, he said.
"And I come in the following Monday and [staff members] are coming by my office and they're happy, they're smiling … everybody was just so glad I showed up for the second week at work," he said.
He soon was dealing with the human fallout from a then-new drug, crack.
He prayed about whether to stay.
"These are the people Jesus was really concerned about,'' he recalled. "And in my particular case, if I called myself a follower of his, would I be concerned about the people that he was concerned about?"
He "re-engaged more intensely with the work," he said.
That led to opportunities to learn and manage Metropolitan Ministries. He was there 11 years before moving to Syracuse.
Parker talked of people he helped, including a pregnant 19-year-old.
A few years ago, he got a call from a senior in a college leadership program.
"She wanted to talk to the man she had heard about all her life,'' the one her mother said had taken her off the streets when she was pregnant, Parker recalled.
The feeling was unbelievable, he said.
Family: Wife Christa; children Claire, Chloe, Charles III, Charis, Cullen.
Pets: A leopard gecko lizard called Gecko and a goldfish.
Hometown: Temple Terrace, Fla.
Residence: Weeknights at an apartment here, weekends in Syracuse, with [Christa] and Cullen. [They'll be moving here in the summer.]
Education: Oral Roberts University -- 1982 undergraduate degree, 1985 Master of Divinity.
What I enjoy most about my work: Positive change. And I'm never bothered by the ups and downs along the way because we all have them. What I like to see is that overall trend line and then when it comes together for them: spiritually, mentally, physically.
The most challenging part of my job: The financial part. Not just raising but also allocating the money. And it's never easy, because you always have to say no to something that's always good. But no today doesn't mean never.
Growing up I wanted to be: A lawyer and eventually a preacher.
People I admire: For his writings, Peter Drucker, the late management consultant and educator. Spiritual writer Henri Nouwen. From a business and spiritual side, Max De Pree, head of Herman Miller furniture company. Bill Hybels, head of Willow Creek Community Church.
Music on my iPod/MP3 player: Christian musicians Jeremy Camp and Hillsong United. Pop music, Dido and Adele (and) I like Pink a lot. I would do sermons on Pink songs if I could.
Favorite meal: Mexican. Anything spicy, hot. Love it.
Always in my refrigerator: Salsa and Greek yogurt.
Hobbies: Soccer and running.n