By Nancy Crawley
Don’t look for the 2017 Volunteer Of The Year in the main halls of Meijer Gardens or the conservatories or the outdoor gardens.
You’ll find Nancy LePage in the lower-level offices, far from the pathways used by visitors and most other volunteers.
There, the cheerful, hard-working 73-year-old spends two or three days a week doing secretarial work for the bustling communications department.
She manages files and archives, inputs data, updates the website, proofreads, and does tedious jobs that demand time and concentration. “I tell people I’ll do any dirt job,” she says with a laugh and twinkle in her eyes.
A volunteer for about 14 years, Nancy was honored Oct. 25 at the annual Connie Snell Volunteer Recognition Dinner where hundreds of volunteers as well as staff members gathered to recognize outstanding volunteers.
There, with tears in her eyes, the surprised and delighted Nancy received her award, and lots of hugs, from Meijer Gardens President and CEO David Hooker and Volunteer Manager Amber Oudsema. Of course, communications staffers were in the audience to cheer for her.
Nancy is a transplant from the east side of the state. She was born and raised in Northwest Detroit, and she and her husband Ron raised three children in Woodhaven, south of Detroit.
She held a variety of jobs, including executive secretary at the Society of Manufacturing Engineers headquarters in Dearborn. Later, she ran her own secretarial services business.
After they retired, the couple moved to the Grand Rapids area to be near their daughter and grandchildren. It wasn’t long after she arrived that a neighbor suggested she try volunteering at Meijer Gardens.
But Nancy didn’t start out in the communications office. First, she tried several other volunteer roles. When the communications spot opened, she was interviewed by the director of communications, Roger Bleiler. “We really hit it off,” she said, and now she enjoys working with the entire staff.
She has been in the office for 12 years, working 12-14 hours a week. In total, she has chalked up more than 5,600 volunteer hours.
“As you age, you want to feel useful, that your talents and skills are beneficial,” she said. “If I didn’t love it, I wouldn’t do it.”