By Danielle Chesney
Entirely East Lansing
EAST LANSING – Among members of the East Lansing community sat Joan Fairey with her friends and family, who traveled from everywhere from London to Los Angeles to attend the 2015 Crystal Awards and surprise Fairey with a much-deserved award. Unaware of her nomination and completely content to watch and enjoy the free food, Fairey said she was “gobsmacked” when the host announced her name as one of the four Crystal Award winners.
The East Lansing Crystal Awards is an annual event hosted by the East Lansing City Council. According to the city of East Lansing website, recipients of the award can be groups, individuals, non-profits, businesses or professionals who contribute to community life in a remarkable way.
East Lansing City Council member Susan Woods describes the typical Crystal Award recipient as “a citizen in East Lansing who has contributed greatly to the betterment and the fabric of East Lansing.”
Karen Arndorfer, a friend of Fairey’s, nominated Fairey for the Crystal Award because of her extensive contributions with multiple organizations including the East Lansing Food Co-op, Greater Lansing Food Bank, Sparrow Hospital and the East Lansing Public Library.
“What do people do after they retire? I’ve worked as a chemist and I’ve worked as a librarian and I worked for many years. What do you do after your husband dies, and you have plenty of money, and your house is paid for and you’re perfectly healthy,” said Fairey, 86. “What would you do if you didn’t do volunteer work?”
Fairey’s volunteer-work does not stop at the East Lansing community. She also worked overseas with Global Volunteers, an international program that sends its volunteers to 34 countries across six continents. She spent her earlier years across the globe, making adobe in India and receiving a certificate naming her a “living human jewel” in the Cook Islands.
Until she met husband Parker at 16, Fairey said she lived with her nose in a book with only her twin sister to keep her company. She used volunteering as a way to grow socially and learn about those around her.
“Volunteering is a way to really make connections with a lot of different people,” said Fairey, East Lansing resident of 30 years. “I can’t imagine people not volunteering. It just wouldn’t be normal.”
Fairey said that while she considers herself a “normal, old widow lady” who plays bridge and goes to dinner parties, she still loves to try new things, visit new places, and meet new interesting people, which is the gift volunteering has given her.
“Doing volunteer work is a pick-me-up. It just makes you feel like ‘well, I’m not perfectly useless,’” said Fairey. “I sometimes feel a little bit that way, but you know what? I’ve wiggled my toes in the corals of the south seas and I’ve seen the Taj Mahal in the moonlight… You just can’t beat it.”
Nominations for the 2016 Crystal Awards closed this past Friday, meaning Fairey’s successors will soon be determined by a community selection committee. The event will take place at the East Lansing Hannah Community Center on Thursday, April 21 at 5 p.m. and is open to all who live in the East Lansing community.