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Many people who voted in last Tuesday’s general election probably didn’t recognize Randall Parker III’s name.
He’s a political unknown — a newbie to campaigning. Someone who, even after working hard to get the message out, still seems to have more eyes skimming across his name in the voting booth than not.
Mr. Parker was a Toledo Board of Education candidate. An endorsed Democrat, he finished fifth in a race that had three open seats.
No matter. Mr. Parker, 38, doesn’t have aspirations to be a career politician, nor is he the type to let an unsuccessful bid for the school board define him.
What pleases him most is that he’s a familiar face to many West Toledo churchgoers and a fixture in the city’s Old West End, where he and his family live on Islington Street.
A gregarious, ebullient preacher, Mr. Parker is pastor of Manifested Word Church, 1314 Fairlawn Ave., near Dorr Street.
Equally as important, he's an inspiration for kids — and someone who has motivated more fathers to engage in their lives.
Mr. Parker, in addition to his pastoral duties, is president of the Glenwood Elementary parent-teacher organization.
He is cited as a role model by The Ridge Project and Hope 4 Toledo, two nonprofits working with The Blade to shed light on fathers — some conventional and some not — who are making a difference in kids’ lives. Stories about such fathers will continue to be published on occasion in the coming months.
“I didn’t really have a male presence in my life,” Mr. Parker said as he talked about his wife of 14 years, Louise, 36, and their three children, Caleb, 10, and twins Cameron and Kennedi, both 8.
“I made up my mind I would do whatever it takes to be part of their lives,” he said.
Caleb’s birth a decade ago was like “prayers were answered,” Mr. Parker said. He and his wife were told prior to that they would not likely be able to produce kids of their own.
Born and raised in Toledo, Mr. Parker attended the former Macomber High School for two years and graduated from Start High School in 1993. His parents divorced three years before that, in 1990, with his father relocating to Dayton.
He’s in his third year as president of Glenwood Elementary’s parent-teacher organization, a volunteer position that enables him to interact with kids.
An estimated 76 percent of children in the Toledo Public Schools system come from economically distressed homes.
“I really have a heart for the children because a lot of them don’t have a male presence in their lives,” Mr. Parker said. “I find it a privilege and honor to mentor children.”
A former musician, Mr. Parker said he entered the ministry years ago when he “felt a burden.”
“It was a burden of people going in the wrong direction of life,” he said.
Karyn McConnell, a former Toledo city councilman who now serves as the Ridge Project’s northwest regional coordinator, said Mr. Parker has impressed people as a fatherhood speaker, such as when he spoke on the topic at Glenwood Elementary’s Brotherhood Banquet.
She said his children “are pillar students” at Glenwood.
Tirrell Brenneman, Glenwood Elementary assistant principal, called Mr. Parker’s leadership skills “an example” for others.
He said Mr. Parker is one of the few men who’ve been at the helm of Glenwood’s parent-teacher organization. He said there’s no question Mr. Parker has gotten more men involved with his outgoing, charming personality — and his ability to both encourage people and defuse sticky situations.
“A lot of things we do now are standing room only,” Mr. Brenneman said. “He’s very approachable. He’s open to receive information from all sides. Being a pastor adds to his credibility.”
Mr. Parker said he is committed to making a difference for his kids and other youngsters.
“Education is the foundation for a thriving community,” Mr. Parker said. “As we invest in our children, our children reinvest in our community.”
Contact Tom Henry at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6079.