Raleigh mobile home park owner seeks funding for storm shelter

By Spencer Parts

Chris Parrish remembers the Saturday in April 2011 when tornadoes ripped through North Carolina, killing 24. He owns a mobile home park in Southeast Raleigh, and his brother, who was living in the park at the time, sought shelter in a nearby storm drain.

His brother had nowhere else to go. Residents of mobile homes are in special danger when tornadoes strike, because their homes are less likely to have safe spaces in which they can wait out a storm. Most of the 24 North Carolinians killed in those storms lived in mobile homes; four children were killed in Stony Brook North, a Raleigh mobile home park just 8 miles north of Parrish’s.

The tornadoes missed Parrish Manor, a 280-home park Parrish built in 1998 with his father and which they now own together, but the close call set him on a quest to find a way to protect residents of the park from the threat posed by tornadoes.

He is almost there. In 2013 he received a FEMA grant for almost $900,000 to construct a Community Safe Room, a large emergency shelter that could protect up to 870 people during a tornado. But his ambitions are greater; he wants the facility, a 5,040-square-foot windowless building that can withstand wind speeds of more than 200 mph, to double as a community center.

After raising additional money in donations and pledges, he is asking the city and the county to fund the rest of the project, requesting $237,000 from each. Officials say they applaud the innovative combination of services for the community, but some have reservations about whether the city should back a privately owned facility that primarily benefits residents of Parrish Manor.

The city and county are drafting budgets now and must approve them by the end of the month.

The FEMA grant for the project was given through the agency’s Pre-Disaster Mitigation program, and it got high marks from FEMA thanks, in part, to the high concentration of people nearby in need of shelter, said Nick Burk, who manages grants for N.C. Emergency Management and worked with Parrish on the application. The state agency will administer the FEMA grant.

The daily use that Parrish has in mind means higher costs – it requires water, electricity, and landscaping – but he says it also will provide an answer to daily threats to prosperity and security in mobile home parks. The communities’ residents are often economically disadvantaged and isolated from parks and other recreational facilities.
‘Stuck on an island’

For almost 10 years, Parrish has been working to counter those challenges in his mobile home park with the Nessie Foundation, the nonprofit arm of Parrish Manor that provides services to the more than 400 children in the nearly 1,100-resident community, such as free daily bus rides to the local Boys and Girls Club and a bike repair workshop.

“They’re stuck on an island out here,” Parrish said. “So you better figure out some stuff to bring to them.”

He thinks a large indoor space would allow the foundation to do more. Current plans include a computer lab geared toward kids that need to do homework online, and a small kitchen that would provide more space for the cooking classes that it currently offers through a partnership with the Wake County Cooperative Extension.

Kay Crowder, a member of the Raleigh City Council, said she hoped the project would make it into the city’s budget. She said that four of the eight city council members were prepared to vote in favor of the proposal. It will need five votes to be included in the budget.

“To me, it’s a win-win, for the city and for the kids,” Crowder said.

Other members think the proposal is not an appropriate use of city money.

“He’s asking for us to use public dollars to pay for improvements to private property,” Councilman Wayne Maiorano said. “He’s asking us to help fund something that has an isolated benefit.”

The shelter will be built on Parrish Manor land, leased long-term at $100 per year to the Nessie Foundation, a registered nonprofit, which will own the shelter.

“It really is a worthwhile cause, but there are many worthwhile causes,” Maiorano added.

Concerns about the extent of services also were raised in county budget meetings, according to James West, chairman of the Wake County Board of Commisioners.

“I think it’s a good project,” West said. “I think there’s some question about the outreach and that it might be confined to the people and the youth in the complex.”

But he added that the county would take its lead from the city. A city vote to fund the project, which it might do over a period of years instead of in one lump sum payment, would “improve the chances tremendously.”

Parrish has pushed hard for the funding, speaking at city and county meetings, and in one instance busing members of the community to a city council meeting.
‘Piece of mind’

Wendy Church, 48, a single mother of two who has lived in Parrish Manor for 31/2 years, went to the meeting and spoke in support of the shelter.

Her children have participated in a number of Nessie Foundation programs, including gardening and bike repair workshops. Church moved to Parrish Manor from a stick-built house, and said she had low expectations when she arrived, because of the stigma surrounding mobile homes.

But now, she said, she “can’t put a price” on the opportunities her kids have received while living there, and she thinks a community center will provide more opportunities. Plus, she said, storms are a major concern in the community, and having a shelter available would make her feel more secure.

“It gives parents some piece of mind at night,” she said.

The FEMA grant stipulates that the project must be completed within three years of the official documents being signed, and it will take 12 to 16 months to build according to the Nessie Foundation.

If it does not receive the local funding this year, Parrish said he will continue independent fundraising efforts and come back to the city and county next year. But he is optimistic about its chances and already looking ahead to the opportunities it will open up.

“It’s going to be a game changer,” Parrish said.

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/counties/wake-county/article23691895.html#storylink=cpy

Landlord Santas bring cheer to mobile home park in Raleigh

Landlord Santas bring cheer to mobile home park in Raleigh


ajames@newsobserver.com December 22, 2013

RALEIGH — Although they would never admit it, the men who started a mobile home park in Southeast Raleigh have a bit of Santa in them.

On Saturday, they once again provided a Christmas experience, complete with gifts, that their tenants might not have otherwise.

The father-son team, Charles and Chris Parrish, turned their family’s land, owned since the 1950s,

into a mobile home community in 1998. Parrish Manor, located off Jones Sausage Road near Garner, stands out from other low-income housing for its sense of community.

“What Parrish does is housing, but what families need is programs to help their kids develop,” Courtney Crowder said. He’s a board member for the Nessie Foundation, the nonprofit arm of Parrish Manor, started in 2006.

The Nessie Foundation works with nonprofit groups to connect residents to after-school programs, sports, gardening, cooking lessons, food assistance and Christmas presents.

When asked, “Why?” the younger Parrish grinned and repeated the question. “We just saw a need and started it.” No big deal.

That’s the humble manner he uses to describe the way the visionary, award-winning mobile home park came about, too.

On Saturday, more than 100 families in the neighborhood came out to enjoy a puppet show, be photographed with Santa and celebrate Jesus’ birth with cupcakes.

“It is wonderful what they offer,” said Virginia Scott, as she waited with her four young kids to see Santa. Her family relies on the food assistance, and her kids do gardening and participate in the Boys and Girls Club.

“I wish there were even more programs,” Scott said.

Santa’s nonprofit helpers

Child Evangelism Fellowship, a national interdenominational nonprofit organization, brought a truck full of brand-new items donated by local churches.

Bob Fowler is the director of Child Evangelism Fellowship for the Greater Raleigh area and another plainclothes Santa. Since Dec. 1, he’s been in a different neighborhood every night, delivering gifts and sharing a message of the real reason for the season.

Parents got to go shopping for what they thought each child would like from the truck of toys and take it home to wrap it themselves.

“We do it so it’s still the parent looking after their child and getting to give them a Christmas present,” Fowler said.

Each child will receive at least two gifts, some of which may be their main gifts. The giving spirit isn’t only around during the holidays.

During the week, Interfaith Food Shuttle delivers food in a bus to residents. More than 80 percent of

children there receive free or reduced cost lunch. There’s a bus that drives kids from the neighborhood to the Boys and Girls club. And a soccer field where kids can play with the Capital Area Soccer League.

As of the fall, Interfaith Food Shuttle began helping residents build there own gardens in their yard. “It would be a great thing if this was replicated in other communities,” Crowder said.

Jerald Tart of the Child Evangelism Fellowship brings in more race cars to be distributed at the Parrish Christmas Party

at the Parrish Manor neighborhood near Garner on Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013. AL DRAGO — newsobserver.com

Presents - CEF








News for 2013

This summer 98 kids registered for our summer bus program.  We had over 1,500 visits to four area Boys & Girls Clubs.  This represents another record as we averaged 40 kids riding the bus each day.  Once again, we made two daily roundtrips to the clubs in order to accommodate the number of kids.  The bus traveled over 2,775 miles during the summer and made over 75 roundtrips.  We paid for each kid’s annual membership to the Boys & Girls Clubs and their $5.00 daily summer camp fee.  The kids attend the entire day at the club and lunch is included.

Nessie expanded its mission and our outdoor activity club completed its third year with sixteen weeks of classes that are held twice a week.  The two hour sessions are directed by part-time graduate and undergraduate college students who follow an exercise curriculum designed to get kids moving and excited about the outdoors. We teach the importance of eating healthy and staying active throughout life. We provide fruit and water for snacks and allow the kids to take home snacks after class.  The golf outreach program First Tee came back this year and held several sessions to teach life and leadership skills through golf.

We had over 60 kids to participate in the outdoor activity club this year and averaged almost 20 kids during each class.

This fall, the Parrish Manor youth that have been working in the community garden decided to transition to a Backyard Garden Program they named Raise the Roots. The program is designed to raise garden beds, fresh food, and a healthy community.  The youth are being trained to build and maintain the gardens. Each takes a turn representing the group to prospective families and leads them in their family  garden plan. This opportunity teaches the youth leadership, organizing, planning and professionalism as they take ownership in the program. They have already built eight backyard gardens and have received requests for seven additional gardens.  This initiative is led by our partnership with Inter-Faith Food Shuttle who also provide our healthy snacks during the outdoor activity club.

Starting spring 2013, Inter-Faith Food Shuttle introduced their new food truck to the community.  The truck comes out twice a week and distributes healthy dinners to kids. Most days over 100 kids take advantage of this unique opportunity.  We are thankful that they have chosen us as their initial feeding site.

This year, we completed our second year of the Healthy Places, Active Spaces grant. This three year grant helps funds our outdoor activity club and allow us to expand our recreation field. We held several community focus group this year and these have contributed to our new masterplan of the recreation space. This plan includes a walking trail, basketball court, picnic shelters, playground and a free play area.  The grant will fund phase one of the plan which includes the walking trail and picnic area.

This fall, we partnered with CASL to introduce their after-school soccer outreach program to our community. Soccer coaches instructed the kids in soccer fundamentals and life skills. This season 67 kids participated once a week for ten weeks. Nessie paid the registration fee for each youth. We plan to add an additional day per week this coming spring and fall.

We believe our initiatives will greatly enrich the community and allow us to increase our positive impact on children and their families.  The board and officers continue to serve as volunteers and all or our donations go toward program expenditures.  Please consider a donation today online or by mail at 4500 Parrish Manor Drive, Garner NC 27529.



Need Help for Nessie Foundation Bus!

It was 24 years old, had an odometer with mileage deep into six digits and ran without air conditioning. But every day the big white school bus rescued more than 100 children from summertime boredom.

The decommissioned Chevrolet bus, bought from Johnston County for roughly $3,500, carried kids aged 6 to 17 to Boys & Girls Clubs around Raleigh, where they got all-day recreation and free lunch. Most of the kids came from low-income families, and nearly all of them rode from Parrish Manor mobile home park in Southeast Raleigh.

Then the bus quit running – twice in four days, for good the second time in early July.

Its blown engine strands 135 children who would otherwise be finger-painting and practicing free throws.

“They need to be there, not here,” said Charles Parrish, owner of Parrish Manor who runs the nonprofit Nessie Foundation.

Read More

Great Press for Us – Feb 2012 – Tarheel of the Week

Published: Sunday, January 29, 2012
BY MARTI MAGUIRE – Correspondent

RALEIGH — Early on, Chris Parrish found room for improvement at the Southeast Raleigh mobile home park he runs with his father. Kids were tossing footballs in the 20-foot sliver between trailers or fishing in the park’s pond without knowing how to unhook their catch. Residents were changing the oil in their cars and dumping the used filters on the ground.
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4500 Parrish Manor Drive, Garner, NC 27529