Parking for Palmer
Caravans of Mississippi State fans (and those from the opposing teams) start pulling into Starkville hours before kickoff for Bulldog home games. As they arrive with tents, chairs and plenty of food for tailgating, Palmer Home for Children residents along with Tom Green, Director of Facilities/Operations, greet them in the Parking for Palmer lot.
Four years ago, Cadence Bank approached Palmer Home about partnering for fundraising and other support. The bank had purchased a lot on Russell Street across from The Mill, but had not yet built a branch there. Just two streets from campus, the lot is one of the closest parking options for tailgaters.
Cadence Bank offered to allow Palmer Home to direct parking in the lot and raise money by charging for each car parked. Green says they wanted to keep the lot affordable and set the parking fee at $20.
On the morning of each home game, Green along with two teens from Palmer Home arrive at the lot four hours before kick off. He usually takes one child who has experience parking cars and one child who doesn’t. As the teens direct traffic into the lot and collect their payment, Green directs them into a parking place.
“At Palmer Home, we say everything is a teachable moment,” said Green. “If we aren’t teaching, we aren’t preparing these kids for their future.”
Parking for Palmer allows teens to develop social skills, practice professional interaction with adults and learn to make change. On the drive home, Green teaches the children to sort the money, straighten the bills and make sure all the bills are turned the same direction.
During weekends the Bulldogs play another SEC team, the lot often fills up within two hours, holding around 130 vehicles. On non SEC weekends, they average around 100 vehicles in the lot, and they see a lot of repeat customers from week to week and season to season.
“Most people know exactly who Palmer Home is,” says Green. “Many of them buy poinsettias from us and are already donors.”
In addition to Bulldog fans, as much as fifty-percent of the lot may be filled with guests from the visiting team. Green uses the internet to let the visiting team’s fans know about the Parking for Palmer lot.
Parking for Palmer can raise up to $15,000 over one football season, but the lessons learned by Palmer children are priceless.