Helen Townsell-Parker is the founder of the Westbrook Foundation and author of ‘A Cry For Help‘, the story of the struggles and victories of the Black Springs community. Helen is the daughter of Jeff and Carrie Townsell, granddaughter of the late Ollie and Helen Westbrook. She is the loving wife of Jim Parker, sister of six brothers, mother of four, and grandmother of seven.
Helen graduated from Procter Hug High School, June 1973, and received a Sociology degree from Contra Costa College in California in 1991.
She worked in the Property Management field, concentrating on low-income neighborhoods.
In March 2006, she was responsible for renaming the once ‘Black Springs Community Center’ to the ‘Westbrook Community Center’.
In 2007 she was instrumental with re-opening the doors of the ‘Westbrook Community Center’, promoting Community Activities.
In 2008 Helen, along with Christopher Harris, founded the Westbrook Foundation. The Foundation was organized in memory of Ollie and Helen Westbrook, Helen’s grandparents. Its primary focus is on youth empowerment through educational scholarships. The Foundation keeps the Westbrook’s vision alive in stimulating our youth to achieve their goals through education.
The Westbrook Foundation selects a high school in Washoe County yearly and gives a scholarship which would be administered by the school. The Westbrook Foundation’s first scholarship went to Procter R. Hug High School in June 2010.
The motivation of Westbrook Foundation stems from the historical book titled ‘A Cry For Help’ authored by Helen Townsell-Parker in collaboration with Christopher Harris. Both Helen and Christopher are active volunteers for Washoe County Parks & Recreation.
Our Story, Inc. had the pleasure of talking with Helen via email. We are pleased to share this conversation with you.
OSI – What was your most vivid memory growing up?
Helen – My most vivid memory growing up was being afraid of the dark. I grew up in Black Springs , Nevada , a small undeveloped community north of Reno . There were no street lights, only dim porch lights; so when night came, it became pitch black, even with the porch lights. You could not see one foot in front of you. It was very scary. The neighborhood knew that I was known for my scariness. I always thought something was out there in the dark waiting for me.
OSI – At what point in your life did you realize the importance of your family history?
Helen – I realized the importance of my family history when I was a teen-ager. I was at my maternal grandparent’s house; there was a picture that hung on the living room wall by the front door. It had been hanging there for years. One day I asked my grandmother who that White Man and Indian Lady were. She said, “They are your family.” I laughed and said, “Yea right Mama Helen, how?” She told me they were her Great Grandparents.
That’s when the questions began.
OSI – What would you do differently if you could?
Helen – You asked what I would do differently, if I could. I can’t say that I would do anything different. All the experiences I’ve had in my life have helped me to grow and become the person I am now; and I like me.
OSI – What do you want people to know above all else about Black Springs?
Helen – What I want people to know about Black Springs is that with dedication, hard work and determination, success can be accomplished. That’s what I witnessed and remembered about the community. They were as one and as one they made history.
OSI – What do you want people to know above all else about your parents and grandparents?
Helen – You asked what I want people to know about my parents and grandparents;
My parents were great providers. We always had what we needed and sometimes what we wanted. I remember watching my dad work hard to make a one room shack that eventually housed eight people, into a home. He would put in a full day working construction, would come home, have dinner and take his half pint or beer or both with him and start working on the house way into the night. A lot of times he worked with just a lantern or night light. You would awaken sometimes to the hammering. My parents were determined to make that shack into a home. And, they did just that. My Dad built a four bedrooms, two baths, laundry room, living room and kitchen home. No training, just natural skills. And yes, my mom worked and together they were able to purchase the materials to build a beautiful home for their family.
My grandparents were more like my parents in a special way. Momma Helen and I did a lot together. When it would be time for her to deliver her Avon , she’d call me and say, baby, come ride with me. We would be gone all day. We would go shopping together. Mama Helen had great taste in clothes, and boy would she dress me, from head to toe. Back then, the outfit consist of a hat, dress, shoes, gloves, fishnets and shoes; and Lord when Easter came, I thought I was a little princess.
She taught me to cook and boy could she cook. I was always asking questions about how to cook this and how to cook that. I use to love to sit on her bed and watch her put her make-up on and get dressed. She had such a dramatic and entertaining way of doing it.
And big daddy was always there for her every need. Whatever mama wanted, mamma got was his motto. They were truly as one. They always acted like newly weds, I never witnessed them arguing and fighting only harmony. Boy do I miss them.
OSI – What does the future hold for you and the Westbrook Foundation?
Helen – What the future holds for the Westbrook Foundation is the promotion of education through providing Academic Scholarships to students furthering their education in the State of Nevada .
And for me; to get our youth involved in community activities and projects, would be a fulfilling accomplishment; as well as writing.
‘A Cry For Help’, author Helen Townsell-Parker, is available online at amazon.com , as well as e-file and u can order it through your local book store.
It is also available on createspace.com\3447559 for $18.95.