Parker named recipient of Barash Award for Human Service

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. –- Paula Parker, staff assistant in the Penn State Justice and Safety Institute, is the 2012 recipient of the Barash Award for Human Service.

Created in 1975 by the family of the late Sy Barash, the award honors a full-time member of the faculty or staff or student body on the University Park campus who, apart from his or her regular duties, has contributed the most to human causes, public service activities and organizations, or the welfare of fellow humans.

Parker is being recognized for her work as co-founder and director of the Military Families Ministry, which provides support to members of the U.S. armed forces and their families. In 2009, when her oldest daughter deployed to Iraq with the Marine Corps, Parker and local Army mom Tracie Ciambotti launched the Military Families Ministry at the State College Alliance Church. Six months later, Ciambotti moved to Colorado, where she started a similar group, and Parker took on sole leadership in State College.

The nondenominational MFM sends care packages to military personnel overseas through Operation Shoe Box, coordinates an “adopt a soldier” program for religious congregations, and facilitates the knitting and distribution of prayer patches and shawls to military personnel and family members.

MFM also supports deployed military chaplains with packages, letters and prayers as well as snacks and toys they can distribute to local children. Among the organization’s many outreach efforts are providing healthy snacks to South Carolina drill instructors, collecting letters and cards for military members serving overseas and partnering with a local dentist to “buy back” Halloween candy from young patients and send it to service members.

One nominator said that Parker is “relentlessly dedicated and unconditionally committed to nothing less than excellence.” Another said, “The work is truly uniting for the local communities, the troops and Paula’s peers in JASI and Outreach more generally — as no matter what people feel about particular wars and conflicts, all agree that the troops deserve to be respected and taken care of.”

Parker is working to establish MFM groups across the country.

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Last Updated April 12, 2012