There’s no shortage of difference-makers in .
That was evident based on the dozen or so Person of the Year nominations Bolingbrook Patch received between Dec. 12 and Dec. 19.
But when it came down to selecting Bolingbrook Patch’s inaugural Person of the Year, one name stood above the rest—Craig Parker.
Parker, the general manager of at , has been identified as one of the most important business leaders and a champion of local philanthropy.
“Craig has spent hundreds, if not thousands of hours serving on local not-for-profit committees, donating services, food, help, etc., to numerous charities,” said Bob Jaskiewicz, a member of the board of directors and the Bolingbrook Patch reader who nominated Parker. “I know for a fact he has helped the March of Dimes, St. Baldrick’s, , , Toys for Tots and I'm sure, many, many more.”
Parker, originally from Alabama, spent three years working at a Gordon Biersch location in Tennessee before settling in Bolingbrook five years ago.
Before long, he had found a home—one that inspires him to constantly find ways to give back.
“Everybody in Bolingbrook is so involved in the community,” Parker said. “It’s just amazing to see the involvement. No matter the event, everybody always comes out to help. It’s just wonderful and it’s why I love this community so much.”
This year alone, Parker has been named the March of Dimes Humanitarian of the Year while the named Gordon Biersch 2011 Business of the Year.
“Craig Parker is a true asset to our community and is a genuine leader among his peers in the restaurant and hospitality industry,” said Michael Evans, president and CEO of the Bolingbrook Area Chamber of Commerce. “It has been a pleasure working with him to help build the Gordon Biersch brand among Bolingbrook and in the surrounding region.”
But what makes Parker a true community gem is his generosity.
Parker regularly provides meals for community events. At the annual Suburban Signature Chefs Auction and Tasting, he gave guests a sample of the restaurant’s culinary creations—all of the proceeds from the event went to benefit the .
“He works tirelessly to get make sure each not-for-profit event is successful and he has no qualms in getting his competition involved as well by recruiting fellow chefs from the other restaurants around town,” Jaskiewicz said.
Pam Bowden, the regional director for the March of Dimes, says Parker gives with his heart.
“He is very generous with his time and in working with organizations such as ours. He is one of the most generous business owners the March of Dimes works with,” she said. “We are very glad to have a friend like Craig in the community. He has a very big heart and we’re very grateful, as I’m sure are many other organizations, to have someone like him working with us. He really gives with his heart.”
But make no mistake about Parker—he’s a businessman. And a good one at that. Evans said every business in town would benefit by simply duplicating even a percentage of Parker’s energy and passion towards success.
Parker has also gotten top remarks from Tom Castagnoli, general manager of .
“I have worked with hundreds of store and restaurant managers in my career but none could come close to Craig Parker,” Castagnoli said. “Craig is by far the best at what he does.”
His reaction to winning Patch’s first-ever Person of the Year award?
“I’m so surprised and honored,” Parker said.
But, like any good leader, Parker deflected praise rather quickly and steered the conversation towards his next way to help the community by plugging a St. Baldrick’s kickoff event, which will be held Jan. 31 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., at, where else, Gordon Biersch.
The is a volunteer-driven charity that funds childhood cancer research grants. That money comes from events where participants shave their heads in solidarity with children with cancer.
According to the group’s website, shavees from around the world have raised more than $117 million for the cause since 2000.
As he did last year, Parker said he plans to shave his head for the local St. Baldrick’s event, which will take place Saturday, March 24, at the .
But the local restaurant manager said he doesn’t mind losing a little hair for a good cause.
“It’s just about giving back. I love giving back to things that need attention to,” Parker said.
Are you a fan of Craig Parker? Leave a comment to let us know what you think about our Person of the Year selection!