Crystal Awards honor unsung heroes of East Lansing for 30th year
Community members of East Lansing gathered to take part in the festivities — and honor the unsung heroes of East Lansing at the 30th annual Crystal Awards reception.
The Crystal Awards have recognized those who have made a impact in the community since 1988. The award was given to four individuals and one organization Thursday night.
The winners were Jeffrey Kusler, Karen and Jerry Jennings, Chris Root and East Lansing Info.
The event came with a twist: each recipient was unaware upon the arrival they had won the award.
The people who nominated them were in charge of getting them to the reception, and kept it a secret that they would be honored at the reception.
A selection committee decided who would be honored at the Crystal Awards, and they looked for certain criteria. They sat down with each person who nominated someone and asked a variety of questions.
"Our selection group was looking at who not only does something that is good, but who in doing something that is good has the multiplier effect and brings others along with them, and allows their effort to be a catalyst for other good things," Selection Committee member Brandon Scott said.
Kusler, business representative and board member of the Downtown Development Authority and the Downtown Management Board, won the first award of the evening. He has donated more than 500 hours of time to the city and worked on large projects around the city.
"It is pretty exciting," Kusler said. "But realistically, I like it more because hopefully this encourages other people to get engaged in the city."
Karen and Jerry Jennings were the only couple to have won the award this year. They are involved in the community and inspire others to contribute as well. They are supporters of the arts and are involved with many organizations such as Lakes Leadership Academy, East Lansing Arts Commission, Peppermint Creek Theater, Volunteers of America – Michigan and more.
They said they were surprised to know they had won, having nominated someone themselves.
"East Lansing is a powerful community and it is a tie for us to rally in East Lansing," Jerry Jennings said. "There is a lot going on in campus and in the community that makes it so that activism and giving back is something we have to raise. I am happy to be honored, and I am sure Karen is, too. We want to be part of the future here."
East Lansing Info is a local independent news service that covers community events and exposes youth to journalism in writing seminars partnered with the MSU School of Journalism. It covers events that might otherwise go uncovered by larger organizations and writes pet obituaries, said Master of Ceremonies for the Crystal Awards and councilmember Ruth Beier.
Root is active in Black Lives Matter, the American Civil Liberties Union and Edgewood United Church. She is retired from the MSU Department of History and created the African Activist Archive Project at MSU.