RIVESVILLE — Rick Parker has lived in Cleveland, Ohio, for all of his adult life, but he’s never forgotten his formative years in the small town of his youth.
A 1965 graduate of Rivesville High School, Parker was on hand Friday afternoon to cut the ribbon on the Parker Pavilion, a new multi-use outdoor facility that’s already being utilized by Rivesville Elementary and Middle School students.
The pavilion, however, is simply the latest donation to the school from the Rick & Linda Parker Foundation.
Parker has also created a college scholarship fund, where he annually donates $1,000 per student for Rivesville Elementary/Middle School graduates who maintain a 3.0 grade point average throughout high school. He purchased the Rivesville Rams sign that stands in front of the school. Last year, he spearheaded the school’s “Stuff the Bus” campaign to collect food, clothing, toiletries and others items to help students.
Parker also purchased a washer and dryer for the school one day after seeing students coming in wet from the rain.
His latest donation, the Parker Pavilion, has already paid dividends with Rivesville students and teachers alike, according to Principal Tyson Furgason.
“It’s come in handy because the COVID pandemic has forced us to change our schedule. For social distancing purposes, many students are able to come out here and eat lunch. For classroom usage, it’s great, too,” said Furgason. “Of course, when the weather changes, they’ll stay in the cafeteria or the gym for lunch, but right now this give us another option. We’ll get a few months out of it in the fall and more in the spring, so we’re very happy about it.”
Parker donated $12,000 toward the construction costs of the pavilion.
Parker, 73, grew up nearby in Paw Paw and married his Rivesville High School sweetheart, Linda Squires, who reigned as Miss Paw Paw District Fair in 1965, the year they both graduated.
“You never forget where you came from. I came from nothing, but made something. Growing up, I only had one pair of tennis shoes when I went to school. I didn’t have winter boots, so I put bread sacks over my shoes,” he said.
Shortly after his Rivesville High School graduation, Parker left Marion County seeking better career opportunities.
In Cleveland, he went to work for the Ford Motor Company and worked there for 32 years. Along the way, he founded Mid-Ohio Asphalt, which grew to become one of the largest construction contractors in the city.
“I’d work the midnight shift at Ford, get off work there at 6 a.m., and go to work with the asphalt business,” Parker said.
He eventually retired from Ford, but he still owns Mid-Ohio Asphalt, which employs about 50 workers. Today, he operates the business with his son and still rises at 3 a.m. to begin his workday.
Rivesville High School closed in 1985, but its structure and campus remain intact, having transitioned into the current elementary and middle school that serves yet more generations of local students. Parker said it’s his pleasure to help the school.
“You can’t take this money with you, you know. Wouldn’t you want to give back to the school you loved to attend? I’ve always felt that way. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” he said. “Some people, they die and they have millions of dollars, but they never donate it to anything. I came in with nothing. I’m going out with nothing.”
Furgason praised Parker for his generosity.
“We couldn’t have done it without the Rick and Linda Parker Foundation. We’re extremely thankful to have such a generous alumnus and donor in Mr. Parker, who does so much for the whole community. He grew up here, he went to school here, and he’s proud to be from Rivesville,” he said.
Alison Eddy, president of the Rivesville Elementary/Middle School Parent-Teacher Organization, said the pavilion has proved beneficial for students during the pandemic. She has three children enrolled at the school.
“Because of COVID, this pavilion is now ten times more important. Social distancing is hard to do when you’ve got a smaller cafeteria, so we’ve had kids eating out here in the pavilion because of necessity. They’re also holding outdoor classes in it. It’s very nice to have extra space outside for them,” she said.
Eddy said a grant from the Marion County Parks and Recreation Commission paid for half the picnic-style tables within the Parker Pavilion, while the PTO raised the other half. Parker funded everything else.
“We’re very appreciative of Mr. Parker’s generosity and we always have great community support as well,” Eddy said.