By Walter Munday
Metro Parks and Recreation Outreach Manager
All too often, the boundaries between work and home often overlap due to increased demands at work. Many often reference their coworkers as their second family. But to one veteran Metro Parks & Recreation employee, he chooses to refer to his colleagues as his primary family, and he is quick to explain why.
Meet Nate Cole, Park Worker II, Vettiner Maintenance District. Nate joined Louisville Metro Parks & Recreation in April of 2002 as a seasonal. Later that year he accepted a full-time position. He’s worked in the Forestry and three different Maintenance divisions (Highview, Sawyer & Vettiner).
“Nate wears many hats. He’s a jack of all trades that has been beneficial to the department and metro neighborhoods…no matter the zip code. His work skills transition to his home and neighborhoods,” said Jacky Gardner-Sparrow, Park Administrator.
In addition to his Park Worker II duties, Nate was the Union Representative from 2011-2014, and served on the Executive Board. After a couple years off, Nate has resumed his union rep duties.
Nate grew up off Grade Lane, but quickly adopted the George Rogers Clark neighborhood as his “hood”. From as far back as age 12, Nate‘s father would transport the family from their south end home to the park every weekend to play in the park.
“It seems like we’d be at the park all day playing basketball, splashing around in the old pool, and just hanging out,” Nate said while reminiscing about his teen years.
Ironically, Nate now lives with his father directly across the street from that very same park – George Rogers Clark Park on Thurston Avenue. Jacky pointed out that Nate often says, “I want the parks to look good because I live there.”
When asked what he loved about working for parks & recreation, Nate answered without hesitation “family” with his coworkers. Nate openly acknowledged that he wouldn’t be alive without the help and continuing support from his coworkers.
Several years back, Nate openly admits battling alcoholism. Like most who deal with this illness, it’s nearly impossible to overcome it alone. Nate, who’s been sober since 2007, acknowledge the support from his supervisors (Jacky & Ken Parker), and his coworkers. He said if it hadn’t been for the support from his work family, he wouldn’t have survived the ordeal. Nate talked about several of the guys who helped him, but one person who he acknowledged for their on-going support was Lionel Hamilton.
“We call him Uncle Lionel because he’s always willing to pull the guys aside; especially the young guys and offer advice. Even off the clock, he’d stop by the house just to see how I was doing. That’s family,” Cole said.
Jacky said that the district crew is like family; the same life and work ethic flows throughout. They eat, work, party and support each other through the good and bad times.