At the heart of Plano, you’ll find unsung citizens doing extraordinary things. Although her grandchildren finished school there years ago, Ruth Parker has volunteered for the past 16 years at Shepard Elementary as a classroom assistant, cafeteria helper and crossing guard.
Why did you start volunteering at Shepard?
I originally started just to be there with my granddaughter. She attended Pre-K there in 2000. My daughter also went to Shepard beginning in 1978 when we moved to Plano.
How do you currently serve the school?
Every morning and afternoon, I am a crossing guard. I’ve been doing that since 2013. I also help in the lunchroom. I have a little apron that I put on and it has the knives and forks and ketchup and napkins. When they forget something, I have it. And I help open the milk for those kindergarten kids.
How else have you helped in the past?
The kindergarten teachers had little books to put together and I’d do those books for them. I’d also read to the children and whatever else the teachers needed help with.
You were awarded the Texas PTA Lifetime Membership Award in 2015. Were you surprised?
I was amazed. I really was, because I thought there’s somebody else who deserves this more than me. And I couldn’t believe it. I was thankful but shocked.
Everyone calls you “Grandma Ruth.” How do you feel about that?
Actually, it’s “Ganmaw” because my granddaughter couldn’t pronounce the “r.” Now I have lots of grandchildren. Some of them come up and give me a hug while I’m standing out in the middle of the street. Those kids are very courteous, they’ll say “thank you” when they’re crossing the street with me. That makes me feel good.
After watching the same kids grow up for six years, does it makes you sad every year when 5th grade comes to an end?
Yes. I have this one little boy and he is so sweet. He wrote me this little note at the end of school last year about how he just had one more year to be with me and that he would cherish every day. It made tears!
You no longer have grandkids at Shepard. Why do you continue to volunteer?
I enjoy it, just being around the kids. It gets me out of the house, and I feel like I help them.
How many more years do you want to do this?
Until they tell me I can’t.