By Ted Ryan
For Darin Parker, owner of the Main Street Cafe in Northport, serving her community is about more than just filling cups of coffee and serving lunch.
Parker is dedicated to working for her community and making it the very best it can be, and for this reason Times Beacon Record News Media has selected her as a Person of the Year.
Parker has been the owner of the Main Street Cafe for 16 years, but she also serves as the first vice president of the Northport Chamber of Commerce as well as a fundraising organizer, and she hosts trips to Broadway shows for Northport Village residents. She is also a major supporter of events and foundations including St. Baldrick’s, Relay for Life, Adopt a Family and Strides for Cancer.
“Since Saint Baldrick’s has been initiated in Northport, we’ve supported it every year … we did the cancer walk this year,” Parker said in an interview. “It’s not just me; the customers here are just absolutely incredible. I send out an email [saying] we need money, we need this, and they respond really well.”
Parker also has holiday stockings lining the walls of her cafe, filled to the brim with donations for the Ecumenical Lay Council Pantry in Northport. Last year, the cafe made a $4,000 donation to the pantry.
Northport Fire Department Ex-Chief John McKenna said Parker is a priceless addition to the Northport community.
“Darin’s helped out in a bundle of ways,” he said in a phone interview. “There’s not a whole lot that Darin hasn’t gotten involved with altruistically. She’s just a very benevolent person and she genuinely cares about people.”
As the vice president of the Chamber of Commerce, Parker organizes events such as raffles and gets local businesses in the Northport community to take part.
Funds received from the raffles and donations run by Parker and the chamber are used to offset costs of maintenance, decorations and events for Northport Village.
Parker said she didn’t foresee herself becoming a member of the Northport Chamber of Commerce at first, much less the chamber’s vice president. She said she’s noticed a distance between the chamber and business owners of Northport that she is trying to close.
“People don’t realize there’s a little rift sometimes between the local merchants and the chamber,” she said. “I was one of those people, and I wasn’t involved with the chamber for a long time, but if you don’t get involved, you can’t make any changes.”
Northport Chamber of Commerce Director Debi Triola vouched for Parker’s devotion to encourage local businesses to be a part of the local events.
“Darin’s excellent,” she said. “Years before she was on the board she was always the advocate for business, for the community supporting any other businesses even at times to her own detriment,” Triola said. “If something was good for the community, — even if it wasn’t necessarily good for her own business — she was very supportive of it. She’s always been.”
Parker said she wants to create a bond among patrons of her cafe, so she organizes events she calls “bus trips” where members of the community go on trips she organized to Broadway shows in New York City.
Parker said that the first time the cafe organized a trip about 20 to 30 years ago, they took a trip to Ireland. Parker has made a commitment to organize a trip abroad run by the Main Street Cafe every two years moving forward.
Parker feels very welcome in Northport and appreciates the receptiveness of her neighborhood in regards to helping the public.
“It does become a really neat community of family,” she said. “I’m not just saying that, it really is. They’re great people.”