EAST LANSING, Mich. — Four deserving recipients were honored at the 29th Annual Crystal Awards last night for their contributions to the East Lansing community.
The Crystal Awards honor the extraordinary accomplishments of individuals, groups, organizations, businesses and/or commercial enterprises that have gone above and beyond to enhance the quality of life in East Lansing. The 2016 recipients are:
MIKE VASIEVICHMike Vasievich is a retired forester and East Lansing resident who has been instrumental in helping to improve the health, management and awareness of City parks and environmental issues in the East Lansing community for several years.
Mike served on the East Lansing Parks & Recreation Advisory Commission for more than three years and helped start the successful, ongoing East Lansing Environmental Stewardship Program. Since the Environmental Stewardship Program’s inception, Mike has served as one of the lead volunteers, dedicating countless hours to working alongside other community volunteers to restore East Lansing’s park biotic communities by removing invasive plant species and replacing them with native species. He also started a tree nursery at Henry Fine Park as part of the program and is one of two volunteers trained to operate a chainsaw and apply pesticide during the monthly park work days.
Mike has also been instrumental in coordinating and helping host the City’s annual Arbor Day celebration with local elementary school students. Each year, Mike not only helps organize and lead the tree planting on Arbor Day, he also helps educate the young students about the importance of trees.
In the Pinecrest Neighborhood, Mike has been very active and involved as well. He started a tree fund for the planting of trees in the neighborhood and, through his involvement with the Pinecrest Neighborhood Association; he maintains a list serve and sends regular emails to neighbors sharing important neighborhood news and information.
Mike is a long-time resident of the City of East Lansing and is retired from the United States Forest Service after a 30+ year career. He is a graduate of Duke University and is an Emeritus Adjunct Associate Professor in Forest Economics at Michigan State University. Mike is the perfect example of a dedicated, passionate community volunteer who, in retirement, has continued to work hard to make the community in which he lives a better place. Because of his efforts, the City’s parks are healthier and many community members – young and old – have gained important awareness about park biotic communities, forestry and the environment as a whole.
JAMES LITTLEJames Little is a long-time resident of East Lansing and a local business owner who has dedicated much of his time, hard work and money to helping keep the East Lansing community healthy and vibrant.
Jim has been a member of the East Lansing Rotary Club for more than 29 years and was an instrumental part of the Playground in the Park Re-Imagined fundraising campaign that helped bring a new-and-improved playground to Patriarche Park in 2014. Jim helped spearhead the fundraising campaign with a generous donation and, alongside his fellow Rotarians, helped raise additional funds through community outreach.
As a member of the Rotary Club, Jim also helped launch the “Weekend Survival Kits” backpack program six years ago. This ongoing program ensures that underprivileged students at Pinecrest, Donley, Marble and Glencairn elementary schools, as well as the Village Network Community Center in Tower Gardens, have food for the weekends. Jim continues to be actively involved in the program, working every other week to fill backpacks and deliver them to the schools.
In addition to the Patriarche Park playground and the “Weekend Survival Kits,” Jim has been in charge of storing, setting up and tearing down equipment for the Rotary Club’s annual Pancakes in the Park – a major fundraiser for the club – and has been involved in many other fundraising and donation efforts that have supported activities, programs and service efforts in the East Lansing community. Jim has served in the majority of the Rotary Club’s offices and was honored as the East Lansing Rotary Club Rotarian of the Year for 2014-2015.
Beyond his service with the Rotary Club, Jim has also been supportive and active in Veterans Treatment Courts for many years, specifically the Ingham County Veterans Treatment Court housed at the East Lansing 54B District Court. The goal of Veterans Treatment Courts is to promote sobriety, recovery and stability for U.S. military veterans facing criminal charges. Through his involvement with the court, Jim has helped set up one-on-one relationships with veterans who need assistance and support for issues that may stem from their service, including controlled substance abuse, alcoholism and mental illness. Many of the cases Jim has worked on involved East Lansing residents who are veterans with special needs. Jim, himself, has military experience and has served on the Board of Directors for the Friends of Ingham County Veterans’ Treatment Court, Inc. – a 501c3 that raises money to assist veterans in the court system.
Jim was the owner of H&H Mobil for more than four decades, but even in retirement he remains involved with the local East Lansing business, which his now owned by his son-in-law. H&H Mobil features an E85 gasoline pump and a charging station for electric vehicles. It is apparent when looking at the well-maintained and attractive Hagadorn-Haslett-Saginaw intersection that Jim took and continues to take great pride in the family business. It is also apparent when you look at the hard work and service that Jim has contributed to East Lansing, that he takes great pride in his community as well.
ALL SAINTS’ EPISCOPAL CHURCHAll Saints’ Episcopal Church has been a wonderful community partner with the East Lansing Public Library (ELPL). Five years ago, in the absence of a free teen drop-in program in East Lansing, approximately 50-60 teens were coming to the library after school each day to gather and wait for rides home. ELPL needed to find a safe, comfortable place for the teens to gather and enjoy programming, while not disturbing other library patrons, and, in the midst of major budget challenges, needed to find a way to offer a teen program at little to no cost. All Saints’ Episcopal Church, without hesitation, stepped in to help by opening its doors and providing a space for the teens on Mondays and Tuesdays. Since that time, the collaboration between the church and library has flourished and so has ELPL’s Teen After School Program.
In addition to providing a place to gather, the church also provides full after school meals for the teens, gaming, homework help and teen programming provided by a youth pastor. At the end of the school year, the church also hosts a special picnic for the teens, volunteers and staff involved with the program. To help support the program, the church created a Teen After School Committee that has met regularly to discuss ideas for funding and new programming.
Fast forward to the summer of 2015 and All Saints’ Episcopal Church has stepped up for the library even more. When ELPL staff members were making arrangements for the closure of portions of the library building to accommodate a major renovation project, the church administrators willingly offered to host the Teen After School Program for the full week, Monday through Friday, and are allowing ELPL staff to do teen programming at the church (i.e. gaming, crafts, homework help, etc.). If that wasn’t enough, the church administrators also offered to house the library’s StoryTime and BabyTime programs at the church free of charge and have provided space for the library to store its early childhood literacy materials. Over the years, the church has also been great about allowing library staff and patrons to park in the church parking lot when there are special programs at ELPL that require overflow parking.
In addition to its collaboration with ELPL, All Saints’ Episcopal Church collects items to give to people in need through the East Lansing Personal Needs Bank, opens its door to members of the community who have been marginalized and need a safe place to go and, recently, collected Easter offerings to support Advent House. The church also provides meaningful programming for children, teens and adults on important topics, including women in Islam, dealing with America’s white/black experience, the Sudan and a program that teaches children about the importance of tolerance and empathy.
The East Lansing community is fortunate to have an open, socially-minded and community-oriented partner in All Saints’ Episcopal Church.
EAST LANSING FOOD CO-OP The East Lansing Food Co-op (ELFCO) has been providing the East Lansing community with access to healthy foods, supporting other local businesses and nonprofits and building community for almost forty years.
ELFCO supports the health of the community by providing nutritious and delicious natural and organic products. By purchasing products from more than 100 local vendors each year, the co-op is also helping to provide a diverse economic boost for the community.
In addition to providing healthy food options, ELFCO has also helped create a vibrant community through its support and collaboration with area organizations and events, including the MSU Museum, the East Lansing Film Festival, the MSU Student Housing Cooperative and local area schools. The Co-op was one of the vendors at the East Lansing Farmer’s Market during its first two years in Valley Court Park and was a founding member of Capital Area Local First and the Northwind Community Garden.
ELFCO serves as a role model for other businesses seeking to operate in an environmentally friendly manner. ELFCO has been honored with a Tri-County Environmental Leadership award and was one of six Michigan businesses to participate in a pilot program to encourage investment in solar panel installations. ELFCO also administers a no-interest loan program for their grower partners, allowing those growers to expand operations with the commitment that ELFCO will purchase as much of their extra production as possible, benefiting ELFCO owners and shoppers.
ELFCO serves as a model for community ownership of a retail business, thereby promoting a stronger sense of community, true community empowerment and a more just economic system.