And now, a puzzle.
How do you make food from these beautiful crystals?
As my friend, Richard. He'll tell you! And it's a wonderful story.
A little bit of background. Many years ago, Richard lost his job at the university. With degrees in geology and public health, he had a great pedigree, but no teaching certificate, so he began substituting in the school district. Along the way, he became a full-time building sub at a local school, and then later -- when other career opportunities evolved -- a volunteer, working with a special education class.
One of the projects he initiated helped children "do good by doing well." He launched the Crystal Project.
Richard purchased several hundred dollars worth of crystals from a mine in Arkansas. When these crystals come out of the ground, they are dirty. No, pretty darned filthy. Nothing anyone without vision would buy.
His kids in the class cleaned the crystals, turning dirty little pieces into beautiful, sparkling bits of beauty.
The crystals were then sold at the holidays, ranging anywhere from a quarter or fifty cents on up to far more for larger pieces that were on a silent auction.
The proceeds from the sale the first year went to the Humane Society and another to a neighborhood Hospice. (The first year, WKAR did a video feature -- at this link, you'd click on Forest View Elementary School in the index).
(The children pick the charity they want to support.)
Take a look -- are these as clear as glass? I think so. A row of them on my windowsill in the sun almost takes my breath away. Really, they are quite remarkable.
"But creating food?" you might ask. Well, then came the food bank.
The first year the kids donated their crystals to the food bank, they made $1,000 and found a spot on the local news. (Here's the transcript of the video segment.)
With this success, Richard managed to secure a grant from the Accident Fund of Michigan, allowing him to purchase the crystals and chemicals needed. This thousand dollar grant last year brought the Greater Lansing Food Bank about $2000 in dollars.
The Accident Fund, recognizing good value for their grant, repeated it this year. The kids have been busy at work this spring, and that will continue when school resumes in the fall.
What started out as a class project has now engaged the entire elementary school, and Richard has the kids fill out "applications" with references, many of which, he says, are endearing. This year, crystals are available around Mother's Day, so the kids can make an inexpensive purchase for mom.
And, while learning about where crystals come from, the kids also have the opportunity to talk with Richard while working. From him, they learn about the skills they'll need to be good participants in society -- responsibility, caring, honesty and integrity. The children in this lower-income school have parents who rely on the food bank. In giving, they are receiving.
And they'll come to Mr. Lassin to share the first books they have learned to read or something special happening that day. It's something he finds special -- and the kids do too.
Wanting to extend the crystal project beyond the Christmas holiday season, he has also placed them in several area coffee shops and physicians offices. And, they can be purchased on craigslist.com under the Lansing section.
It's a win-win situation for everyone. For the kids, it's learning the discipline to do a project, and to learn that their efforts can help benefit the food bank (something many of their families must use). For Richard, there's a joy in seeing these kids grow and being part of that process.
As for the food bank, they benefit with a cash donation with which they can purchase the necessary items not likely to be donated in collection boxes.
For more about the food bank project, you can e-mail Richard here.
In honor of Richard's efforts, I am having a crystal giveaway. Any comments on this post or others continuing through May 31 will be entered in a drawing to win one of the crystals the children have cleaned and prepared for the food bank.