Like mother, like daughter.
Crystal Olympidis instills in her children the importance of giving back to the community.
She leads by example, taking her children to various volunteer events she helps organize through the Valparaiso YMCA. Her daughter, Maria, 11, has followed close behind her mother, organizing her own charitable project through her school, Morgan Township Middle School.
The giving tree was an idea of Maria’s, inspired by Crystal, and the reason the two of them are joining together as this week’s Valpo Live’s in the Spotlight.
Crystal and her husband Dimitri began raising their family in Phoenix, Arizona, but about five years ago they decided to move to Valparaiso, Ind. to be closer to family and for Dimitri to be engaged with the family business, Family Express.
“We weren’t near any family there,” Crystal said.
When she arrived, she wanted to meet people and be a part of an influential, positive place, thus joining the Valpo YMCA.
An exercise-enthusiast and a longtime volunteer for community events, she and her husband fit right into the committees and various organizations put on by the Y.
“When we were kids, my mom worked for the mentally disabled,” she said. “So in the summers, my sisters and brothers would help out and go there with her. We would volunteer with Special Olympics.”
Crystal also mentioned many years of volunteering at her church and at many Greek festivals with her grandmother.
When she joined the Y, she dove right into community events, teaching a Mommy and Me class, and participating on many committees.
On Saturday, Dec. 17, Crystal and her family helped out at the Northwest Indiana Food Bank, one of the community events they partake in each year around this time.
She is the mother of Maria, Kosta, 8, and Nico, 13 months, all of whom attend volunteer events alongside her and her husband.
“To have a strong community like Valparaiso does, you have to give back to the community, whether it is a little bit or a lot, every little bit counts. If everybody does something positive and give back just a little, then you can have a wonderful community,” she explained. “That’s what I teach my kids.”
Maria took that lesson to her principal, with her best friend Megan Nagle in the hopes of setting up a giving tree.
“They came up with the idea knowing there are a lot of homeless people in the area,” Crystal said. “So, they went to the principal, unbeknownst to myself, and asked if they could do a giving tree.”
Once at home, with the help of mom, dad, Nagle, and a Pinterest example, Maria assembled the tree and placed it in the middle school office. Thanks to word of mouth, Facebook, and announcements made throughout the school, the two girls collected 160 gloves, scarves, and hats.
The tree was put up after Thanksgiving and was taken to Housing Opportunities, a non-profit organization, to give to the homeless last week.
“It made me feel good when we went to Housing Opportunities and gave it to them,” Maria said. “We had a lot of fun and took pictures.”
This was Maria’s first big charity project she has been involved in, and she looks forward to continuing volunteering and helping others. When she visits her cousins over the holiday break, she plans on bringing them to help out at a nursing home, she said.
Like mother, like daughter, the two enjoy spending time with friends and family in their free time.
With Nagle, Maria enjoys having dance parties and planning their next project together.
“We always have smiles on our faces because we know that what we’re doing makes our hearts feel good,” Maria said.