A discussion Tuesday by Barry County commissioners on an employee recognition program at the county level prompted Commissioner Dan Parker to offer a suggestion.
Instead of a small event every month or two for one employee, he suggested a once a year event for all employees.
Years ago in Middleville, after hearing rumors the village fire department was feeling unappreciated, he organized an event to show them how they much they were valued. He got donations that paid for a meal in the TK cafeteria and a program in the auditorium with a professional magician that was very well attended by the community and the firefighters.
It was in January on a bitterly cold night with blowing snow, but the community still came out to show their support. “It was a good family night and made good memories, too,” Parker said.
Parker has long been a believer in recognizing employee contributions. He sat on the Thornapple Kellogg Board of Education when the district’s bus drivers were taking some criticism in 1992.
He and his wife Linda invited all of the drivers to brunch in their home that December and they have every December but one since.
Now, the brunch includes bus drivers, transportation staff, the TK superintendent, board of education members and others, with many contributing to the occasion. The board of education now pays for the food for some 30 guests, and others help prepare the food.
Parker remembers a humorous sidelight of their efforts to recognize the drivers. After he retired from the school board after more than a dozen years, he got a call from then-Superintendent Kevin Konarska who was involved in negotiations with the driver’s union.
“I gotta call you,” Konarska said. “They want to know if you are still going to have the driver’s brunch.” While not a negotiated item, it showed the Parkers their efforts were appreciated.
What started as a nod to a group of employees has grown to something much larger over the past 25 years. “The best part is they get to know each other; it builds respect,” Parker said of the annual gathering. Next week, the bus drivers and others, will again be guests of Dan and Linda Parker for brunch.