South Congaree resident teaches children importance of community through selfless service
South Congaree, SC (Paul Kirby) – In December of 2017, South Congaree resident Tom Parks’ three daughters knew that the Main Street of their home town looked different somehow. Parks, who is a single dad, said that it didn’t take them long to realize that the problem was that the Town of South Congaree’s Christmas Snowflakes they displayed each year were missing from the light poles along the street. This concerned the girls who told their dad it just didn’t seem to be Christmas in their hometown without them. For Mackenna, 14, Sarah, 11, and Summer, 10, the holidays just wasn’t complete without those Snowflake lights this last year.
Fast forward to November of 2018, and Parks saw a post from the town in The Lexington Ledger saying that the they were seeking volunteers to rebuild the decorations that had fallen into disrepair over time. After more than 20 years of service, the lights had seen better days and buying new ones at a cost of almost $30,000 was out of the question. A neighborhood organization had raised the money to buy the materials to make the flakes like new again, but the labor was going to have to be done by people willing to chip in at no cost. This was the only way that the snowflakes would be hung for Christmas, 2018.
Parks, who grew up in a small town in Ohio where everyone knew everyone as neighbors, thought this would be the perfect opportunity to teach his girls the joy of being a part of a community and giving back. Parks said his children love South Congaree, play in its small park or their yard with no fear because they know the police are working to keep them safe, and think everyone is so friendly and, well neighborly here. “These are good people here and I hate to see them get a bad rap,” Parks said during a recent interview. “We love the people of South Congaree, do business here because they’re so good to us, and when people criticize this town, they’re criticizing my neighbors and friends,” he said. For those reasons and more, Parks knew he had to get his girls involved in bringing Christmas officially back to the town.
South Congaree Police Josh Shumpert said that Parks and his daughters went above and beyond to help. “He and his daughters had their hands in lots of things during the process of getting the town decked out for Christmas,” Shumpert said. A lot of people helped, but they just went way above and beyond, and the leadership of the town was heartened to see a father teach his children that Christmas isn’t just about the gifts you get, but more importantly, giving to others in whatever way you can. Shumpert said that even after the repair work was done, Parks rode with him in his pickup and helped distribute the lights to each pole where they would later be installed by the power company.
Parks said his youngest daughter is a real worker and she took to every task with gusto. “She drove the stakes in the ground that are holding up the reindeer by the Christmas tree, helped with the snowflakes, and did a little of everything else too,” Parks said. “The other girls chipped in where they could and in the end, I think they all got the message that I wanted them to. Growing up with a sense of love and pride for your community will make you a better adult when you’re older.”
Parks said that now that the town is decked out for Christmas, his girls just love to ride the streets at night and see the decorations they were so instrumental in making possible. “They love to see the snowflakes lit, the lights, that tree; they feel as if they’ve been a part of something, a part of this community. They all feel like neighbors now and to me, that’s as important as anything they’ll ever find under a tree on Christmas day.”