Community Service Champion: Rebuilding Main Street - KAUZ-TV: Newschannel 6 Now | Wichita Falls, TX

Community Service Champion: Rebuilding Main Street

Most of our Community Service Champion nominees are involved with a non-profit, or an agency that they volunteer for and go above and beyond. This month, our nominees are working hard to make a difference for an entire town.

We see it often all across this country, small towns working hard to keep their main street and downtown area not just afloat, but also to keep it from looking like a ghost town. It's not an easy task and, it can take years. One Texoma town has been found by a pair of unlikely transplants, who are making a change for the better.

"We wanted to be here," said Tom Parker. "It just felt right, and we've never looked back."
4 years ago Tom and Nan Parker went searching.
"We were looking to leave the Washington D.C. area, and looking to get to a west Texas town," says Tom.
They found Olney, and went to work.

"There's a great intrinsic value to a small town. Having lived literally around the world, and looking at what Olney has, and doesn't have, I know I needed to do it here," said Tom.

The Parkers are slowly working to transform what was a run down, and dilapidated main street into something the entire town can be proud of and benefit from. It's a labor of love and Tom said he's not doing it in hopes of renaming Olney "Tom Town". He's doing it, because he wants a place the cities current kids, and future generations to come, can enjoy.

"It sounds cliché, but we're doing it for the children," said Tom. "To hopefully, make their lives a little nicer and safer. To give them a few more opportunities, hopefully."

They have already finished 3 buildings and have plans for several more. An antique store. The old bank they bought, is now their home. What may be the completed project they are most proud of, is an open air multi use facility. It's grand opening was a back to school event that brought in 300 kids. They have plans for so much more. The Parkers want Olney to be a place that more people will stop at, or make a destination point to enjoy a small town. The buildings had suffered from fires and Tom used wood from the old roof structure to make tables. They have used old metal and steel from bridges in other restoration projects.

"We've expended a lot of time, sweat and money, but I don't think we've been cheated," Tom said. "I think we've gotten all of what we were looking for back out of it. It's a great community. You hear all the time of, 'those Yankees'. Those 'darn Yankees' and, we have never felt that here. We came in wanting to give.  So, I think we've gotten back because we came in wanting to give. It's been a great experience."

The Parker's are making a difference. One stone at a time. One old building at a time. One table at a time. Tom said he's using local labor so that the entire town will be proud once main street becomes a place everyone in town will want to spend their time in.

"It's a nice place. Make it nice. That's why I do it. I like to see other people smile," Tom says.

They really are working hard to make a difference, and it seems they are not even close to being done. The Parkers have a number of projects that are in the works. After talking to them I am pretty sure, they have no plans of stopping until their vision for Olney's main street comes into full focus. Bringing smiles, and new life to a town that was almost completely left for dead.

Chris Horgen, Newschannel 6

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