With women's homeless shelter opening, more entrepreneurs should take a cue from Greg Parker

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Credit: Zoe Nicholson

Gas been very, very good to Greg Parker. And Parker has been very, very good to Savannah. All we knew, way back before Savannah hit the tourist chart big time, was that there was this really neat place on Drayton Street where you could grab a New York Times or a snack — fish and grits, chicken pot pie (my favorite), rice pudding, mac and cheese, scalloped potatoes — any time of the day. For a while, Parker’s, Morrison’s, Debi’s, the original Lady and Sons (where servers would sing happy birthday if the occasion warranted serenading) were about all we had to choose from.

But Parker’s was slick, urban slick, something else we didn’t have much of in the early days. It was dope. It was cool. It had everything — wine, desserts, cards, gifts. Long after I moved away from downtown and no longer went there so often, the place morphed yet again and became known as Fancy Parker’s, a term we gave it way before it became official. When I heard people referring to it that way I thought it was a joke — until I saw the name on the building. Voila.

At the time, Greg Parker always seemed to be around. Affable, friendly (with a little more hair), he wanted to know what you thought of the place, what you thought it needed, all the while adding on to his staple of stores (everywhere, it seems), each time with a few more tchotchkes (at least in Fancy Parker’s) and some better landscaping, but always with the same offering of hot and fresh food.

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Then I started seeing his name elsewhere — on that gorgeous Greek Revival mansion known as the Philbrick-Eastman House on Chippewa Square, the one with Doric columns, 14-foot ceilings and wildlife murals painted by Savannah's Bob Christian. Then there's the emergency and trauma center at Memorial Hospital and the Parker College of Business at Georgia Southern University, to name two. Yes, they all have his name front and center, in big letters. Make no mistake who financed these operations. But somehow I don't care. It's not like the Staples Arena in Los Angeles, a sports and music venue, renaming itself Crypto.com Arena.

Parker could be stashing his money overseas (he might be doing that) or to some exotic island (he might be doing that, too). I'm sure he's got some expensive CPA finagling some fancy tax deal. But it was his latest contribution that made me sit up and notice. This time it was for an emergency shelter for homeless women (another $250,000 check, thank you very much) offered through Union Mission and the Savannah Community Foundation, an umbrella philanthropic organization to which Parker has contributed $20 million. Twenty million! That's a lotta gas, a lotta chicken pot pies.

Maybe it was because I had just finished watching “Maid,” a 10-episode series on Netflix, that primed me for his generosity. A bit cheesy but still compelling, still gripping, “Maid” focuses on a young woman with a child trying to escape an abusive relationship while cleaning houses and desperately seeking shelter, all the while dealing with a nut job of a family and the obfuscating red tape of government assistance that requires an advance degree to navigate.

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Credit: Steve Bisson

Good work, Union Mission. This project, I read, is the only women’s homeless shelter in the area. How can this be? Why aren’t there more shelters? This is not a new problem. More to the point, how many other entrepreneurs admit, in so many words the way Parker did, that he made a lot of money in 2020 and a lot of people didn’t. It’s OK, he implied, to let some of it go.

Why aren’t there more Greg Parkers out there in the world? In the end, how much money does one person need?

Jane Fishman is a contributing lifestyles columnist for the Savannah Morning News. Contact Jane at gofish5@earthlink.net or call 912-484-3045. See more columns by Jane at SavannahNow.com/lifestyle/.

This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: With women's homeless shelter opening, more entrepreneurs should take a cue from Greg Parker