#HOPEHeroes: Social worker unknowingly saves the life of SNAP applicant
Peggy Parker has been with Oklahoma Human Services for 16 years. She has served in numerous positions in Child Welfare Services and Adult and Family Services. Parker has been a Family Services Specialist II for nine years and is currently assigned to the Oklahoma County 55A office in southwest Oklahoma City. Like many social workers, she strives to serve each customer with grace and dignity. However, Parker never could have imagined just how pivotal her work would be for one of her clients. Sometimes, what seems like “everyday social work” turns into a Hope Hero moment.
Around November 2021, Parker received a call from Zakiyyah Kimbrew, who wanted to apply for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). During this call, Kimbrew shared with Parker her current situation and needs.
Kimbrew was not from Oklahoma and, at the time, knew very few people. Her husband brought her to Oklahoma and then left her all by herself. She didn’t know what to do. Kimbrew had made a friend who offered her food and a place to stay, but after some time, Kimbrew expressed guilt for depending on her friend to get by. Her friend suggested she apply for SNAP so she could begin to regain her independence. Kimbrew was hesitant at first, but eventually agreed it was time to take a leap of faith. When she called Oklahoma Human Services, Parker’s kind voice helped her open up, and she began to sob as she recounted her experience. Parker referred her to Calm Waters to help her navigate the loss of her relationship and provided her with additional resources for housing, food banks and employment.
Unbeknownst to Parker, Kimbrew was thinking about taking her own life but made no mention of it during that initial phone call. This revelation was disclosed to Parker months later in a follow-up phone call between the two. Parker explained, “I was made aware of [her plans] when she recently called me to let me know what a blessing I was to her and the progress she has made.”
Months after the initial call between the two, Kimbrew told Parker she had written a letter to Oklahoma Human Services because she felt adamant about letting Parker’s supervisor know how much Parker meant to her. The letter was delivered to Carenda Woolridge, the field manager for Parker in Region 3. Woolridge said, “Ms. Parker always has great customer service, and we are blessed to have her as a part of our team.”
Kimbrew’s letter serves as a reminder of how important and impactful our work is to others. This excerpt demonstrates how a listening ear can save a life.
I had actually came to my wits end. I was in a depression when I spoke to her crying uncontrollably. [Parker]listened and she heard me. She actually saved my life.
I felt the need to let superiors know what a fantastic, professional person they have on their team. I feel she really needs a token of appreciation. She is the best and needs to be appreciated. She is definitely worthy. I would also recommend her as a mentor and trainer for other social workers. I know she would bring some valuable lessons to them.
You have an awesome worker on your team. She is someone special. I cannot commend her enough. She administers social work as it should be and she went above and beyond her duties to assist me with many resources and informative information. She was amazing and I feel honored to have her as my social worker.
Parker’s supervisor at the time was Rebecca Gordon. She said, “Ms. Kimbrew's letter is a dramatic example of how meaningful our work can be, even in what may seem like the most ordinary interactions. It is also a compelling testament to Peggy's compassion and professionalism. I was not surprised to hear the praise that Ms. Kimbrew offered to Peggy. I have witnessed her special way with clients, always patient, kind and caring, here in the office. I am honored to have her as part of my team!”
When Parker read the letter, she was incredibly touched. “This is the very reason we must be so careful how we talk to and treat others, because we do not know the outcome of our own actions,” she said.
Parker makes sure her clients have her number, and they often do call her when they need assistance from a social worker. She and Kimbrew have stayed in contact.
A few months ago, Parker was visiting a church. During the service, the church leadership invited members of the congregation to come to the altar. Parker saw one woman walk down the aisle wanting to join the church. The church announced the woman’s name: Zakiyyah Kimbrew. Parker knew with a name as unique as that, it had to be her client. After the service, Parker approached Kimbrew and introduced herself. Kimbrew immediately realized who she was, hugged her and reassured her, “I’m doing so much better now, thanks to you!”
Parker always knew she wanted to grow up and work in a field that helped people. Among other fields, she had considered becoming a nurse, teacher or social worker. Parker said, “I just love helping people become more independent and productive. That’s why I’m here—to do whatever I can to help.”
If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available 24/7. Call or text 988 or chat on 988lifeline.com to connect with trained crisis counselors who can help.
Do you have a #HopeHeroes story you would like to share? Email it to HopeHeroes@okdhs.org.