Mary Parsons in The Hinsdalean


Hinsdale, Illinois | Thursday, November 01, 2012


                               60 SECONDS
MARY PARSONS
EARNED A DEGREE IN CHEMICAL ENGINEERING FROM THE IMPERIAL COLLEGE IN LONDON • HUSBAND HUGH WORKS FOR BP • HAS LIVED IN ENGLAND, SCOTLAND AND NEW ORLEANS • MOM TO NIKKI AND GARETH

   Volunteering with Assistance League Chicagoland West appealed to Mary Parsons for one simple reason.
   “I liked the idea of it being a hands-on volunteer organization,” she said.
   “You’re not just writing a check. You’re not just doing a fundraiser. We actually make the money at the fundraisers and we spend the money on our programs.”
   The group’s next fundraiser, Books and Brunch on Nov. 13, will help the chapter fund its three programs. The group equips kitchens for people moving from transitional housing into a new home, buys coats for schoolchildren in need and reads to kids in Head Start.
   Volunteers actually shop for and assemble the kitchen equipment and buy and deliver the coats.
   “We see the smiles on the faces of the kids as they’re getting them,” Parsons said.
   While this area is fairly affluent, plenty of need exists in the league’s service area of western Cook and eastern DuPage counties.
   “We sort of start in Hinsdale and go in concentric circles out,” she said. “We certainly do some coats in Hinsdale and Burr Ridge and Westmont (and) Downers. We go as far as Villa Park and Lombard.”
   Parsons and a friend are contributing a raffle basket for Books and Brunch whose items hit home. The theme is Travel in Style, a concept the native of England is all too familiar with.
   Her husband, Hugh, works for BP, and job transfers have taken the family back and forth across the Atlantic for two decades.
   The couple first moved to the States in the early 1990s when daughter Nikki was a toddler. They lived in Washington, D.C., and then moved to New Orleans, where son Gareth was born. They went back to England, came to Hinsdale for the first time in 2000, then moved to Scotland and returned to Hinsdale in 2005.
“I think the first time we moved, which was back in ’92, was very difficult,” she said. “You didn’t have the Internet. You weren’t able to Google your newcomers club.
   “I didn’t know the difference between a Walmart and a Macy’s,” she added.    “Those brandy things didn’t mean anything to me.”
   Parsons found Newcomers and Neighbors of the Greater Hinsdale Area when she was looking for other women who played golf. As a new resident, she often heard about book clubs or other groups that women she met belonged to, but she wasn’t always invited to join.
   “I like to think that we are open to anybody to join our bunco group or come to our lunch group or come to our social event,” said Parsons, who currently is the group’s president. “Hopefully you’ll find people who enjoy the same things as you.”
   She also started a new group through the PTO at Hinsdale Central, while her son was a student there, to link the families of students transferring in with other families who were familiar with the district.
   “We thought it was nice to have somebody they could call about what do they wear for homecoming,” she said.
   Parsons, who worked for Shell while she was living in England, has enjoyed having time to participate in volunteer work, something that is less common in her home country.
   “People in this community are very generous with their money and time,” she said.
by Pamela Lannom