Norwalk Area Chamber President for 2020 Travis Stanley presents the Chamber’s 2020 Citizen of the Year Award to Crystal Ellis following the Chamber’s virtual awards event January 22.
As a volunteer for the Norwalk Area Ministerial Association, Crystal Ellis has become the community’s chief navigator, creative problem solver and moral support for hundreds of residents, leading to recognition by the Norwalk Area Chamber of Commerce as Citizen of the Year for 2020 at the Chamber’s 28th annual Awards Banquet January 22.
Already a key link in the community for families needing assistance, the impact of the pandemic since Spring 2020 has made Crystal even busier making more of a difference. “My role has been to reach out to families who need help, who need a step up to get through this challenging time,” she says. “For many, that means help maneuvering the social services system, where to get help with rent, where to find affordable car repair, what groups can provide food assistance. The Norwalk Area Ministerial Association can help with many of these, too.”
As a result of Crystal’s leadership, hundreds of Warren County families have experienced support through various projects over the past 13 months. The Ministerial Association is a 501(c)3 charitable organization, meaning donations, which are essential for its services, may be tax deductible.
Well known among the Ministerial Association’s projects is the Association’s ministry through the Norwalk Area Food Pantry, hosted by New Life Lutheran Church. Getting food to families today involves new delivery methods and thankfully many donations, Crystal explains
“We have partnered with the Food Bank of Iowa since 2018, bringing a Mobile Food Pantry to Norwalk on even-numbered months. Since April, when in-person activities became limited for pandemic safety, we began drive-through food distributions with volunteers loading 40 to 50 pound boxes of food into client vehicles, an average 150 cars each month, to help area families,” she says. The boxes provide non-perishable goods, fresh produce, frozen meat, proteins, eggs and/or milk.
Another project under Crystal’s leadership has been organizing Food Rescue which involves deliveries of food to two subsidized apartment complexes in Norwalk. “With support and donations from Fareway and Kum & Go we deliver food items three times a week to the complexes, stocking refrigerators in their community rooms where residents select items without charge,” she explains.
Crystal again coordinated the 2020 Warrior Giving Project, the new name for the traditional Christmas-time donation partnership between Norwalk Community Schools and the Ministerial Association. In 2020 the project provided gifts to over 200 children and help for over 80 area families with necessary items, all donated by members of local churches, businesses and families. The Warrior Giving Project also coordinated the donations of 30 artificial Christmas trees to families who didn’t have trees to decorate until the group got involved.
After a career as a retail district manager and in banking plus 10 years as an education and outreach director for a local church, Crystal began volunteering with the Norwalk Area Ministerial Association full time. “I felt this was something God has called me to do and that I could contribute with my career background,” she says. “A big part of this role is logistics and I’ve learned that anything is possible with God’s guidance, volunteers and dedicated leadership. This community is so wonderful and it’s a long-standing part of our culture that we take care of each other. We know we need to lift each other up.”
Crystal was among six citizens and community organizations honored at the Chamber’s virtual event January 22. The Chamber honor is especially fitting for Crystal whose husband Jim Ellis was Norwalk Area Chamber president in 2000 in the early years of the awards program.
Pet Supplies Latest Way Norwalkians Can Help
The newest project of the Norwalk Area Ministerial Association – Warrior Giving Wednesday – will kick off with treats for a special audience: the pets of Norwalk area families.
The first Warrior Giving Wednesday, a new project to encourage donations to meet local needs, will be a pet supplies collection event on Wednesday, February 10. Donors are invited to drop off donations between 3:30 & 5:30 p.m. at Norwalk Christian Church, 701 Main St. Later in February, the items will be given to area families to help meet the needs of pets during pandemic challenges in their households.
Especially needed at the February 10 drop off are dog and cat food, both dry and canned, cat litter, dog and cat toys and treats. Volunteers will be on hand to help unload donations.
The February 10 event is the first in a series where donors can contribute such items as shoes, cleaning supplies and full-sized toiletries on the second Wednesday of each month. Watch the Warrior Giving Project Facebook page to see each month’s needs. The Norwalk Area Ministerial Association has a 501(c)3 designation so donations may be tax deductible.