The 2001 Nissan Frontier with 160,000 miles on its odometer illustrates as well as anything else the commitment of 82-year-old Shelly Parker to others in times of need.
For his efforts, the Gahanna resident was named Senior of the Year and will be honored Thursday, July 25, at the Makoy Center, 5462 Center St., Hilliard, during the Young at Heart festival, which is sponsored by The Columbus Dispatch and ThisWeek Community News.
Shelly and his wife, Miranda, coordinate and operate the food pantry at the East Side Grace Brethren Church in Blacklick.
“We’re simply compelled to do it,” said Miranda, 67.
She said the couple’s faith has led them to do “what we are supposed to do.”
The Parkers, who have been married 23 years, began attending East Side Grace Brethren in 2015 and started to volunteer by distributing small bags of food the parishioners had collected.
Miranda keeps the pantry’s weekly schedule and distributions.
As the demand for services increased, more volunteer time was required – and the Parkers obliged.
The church became an agency of the Mid-Ohio Foodbank, opening more resources and allowing it to accommodate the increasing number of people depending on its services.
“I’m the coordinator, but Shelly is the brains and does all of the grunt work,” Miranda said.
That “grunt work” includes driving his truck from their home to a former Kroger warehouse in Grove City to load fresh produce and deliver it to the food pantry.
Every Monday, Shelly loads and unloads fresh fruit and vegetables that are distributed that day at the food pantry. For example, on June 24, he picked up more than 2,400 pounds of fruit and vegetables.
Until a month ago when another volunteer started, Shelly did this on his own. His truck could carry 1,000 pounds; Miranda’s vehicle could hold another 500 pounds.
A U.S. Air Force veteran and the oldest of seven siblings, Shelly returns to the warehouse each Tuesday to pick up canned goods and packages, such as dry cereal, and delivers them for distribution on Thursdays.
“Move and transport; move and transport,” is how Shelly describes his days, adding he is pleased to work alongside his wife and help those in need.
One week in June, the pantry served 142 families and 664 individuals.
“Shelly is 82; he should have his feet up, but he just can’t do that,” Miranda said.
A South Carolina native and retired industrial engineer who came to central Ohio in 1979 and still has his native accent, Shelly finds more ways to help others.
“He’ll take a lawn mower someone is throwing away, fix it and give it to someone who needs one,” Miranda said.
“He has always been so kind and generous," said Marianne Langley, Shelly’s sister, “and he does all this, almost all the time, by himself."