‘I’ve just done the right thing for kids,’ says
Ak-Sar-Ben Court of Honor Inductee Penny Parker
She looked like a present-day Cinderella, glowing in a blue cap-sleeved gown with a subtle glittery floral pattern embellishing it from the top down.
But it’s her years of dedicated service to youth that really tell the Cinderella story. She’s been a voice for the voiceless, an advocate for those less fortunate, a guide for thousands of children and families.
The Knights of Ak-Sar-Ben and Women’s Ball Committee inducted Completely KIDS Executive Director Penny Parker into the 2013 Ak-Sar-Ben Coronation and Scholarship Ball Court of Honor on Oct. 19 at the CenturyLink Center. She joined fellow inductees Fr. Thomas M. Fangman, Jr., Bruce Rasmussen and Michael H. Simmonds.
“I was shocked, and I said, ‘You’ve got the wrong Penny Parker,’ ” she said about her reaction to finding out she was selected for the Court of Honor. “I don’t feel like I’ve done anything extraordinary. I’ve just done the right thing for kids.”
Established in 1988, the Court of Honor is one of the most prestigious awards given by the Knights of Ak-Sar-Ben Foundation. Honorees are selected based on excellence in one of the following areas: agriculture, arts, business and industry, community service, education, philanthropy, professions, public service, sports or youth.
Penny has served for 22 years as the executive director of Completely KIDS, formerly Camp Fire USA Midlands Council. She attended Nebraska Wesleyan University and received her bachelor’s degree in social welfare from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She then earned a master’s degree in social work from the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
Prior to her work at Completely KIDS, Penny served as a caseworker and then supervisor for Douglas County Social Services, followed by a position at Child Saving Institute, where she managed a residential program for young mothers and their children. Later, as an employee of the Nebraska Department of Social Services, she became the first female child welfare administrator at the Omaha office, overseeing foster care, adoption and child protective services.
We all know it isn’t the dress that makes the princess. It is her actions and service to others. In keeping with the humble and gentle Cinderella spirit, Penny is quick to say that this significant honor is not about her; rather the agency, and the kids and families it serves.
“The theme to me is almost like hard work pays off,” she said. “If you have passion for what you do, give your all. Don’t worry about the recognition.”