Community Maplewood

Joan Crystal, Cynthia Thompson, Maplewood Garden Club to Receive Maple Leaf Award

From the Maplewood Civic Association:

On Sunday, May 6, 2018, Joan Crystal, Cynthia Thompson, and the Maplewood Garden Club will be honored as recipients of the Maple Leaf Award for volunteer and community service. “This year’s Maple Leaf Award recipients include relatively long-time residents of Maplewood. Whether the volunteer work of this year’s recipients has been given for service to maintain and enhance the character of Maplewood and its traditions; for the support and enrichment of opportunities for young people; for the conservancy and beautification of Maplewood; for the care and health of Maplewood’s children and adults; or for the safety and well-being of our community, these volunteers are exceptional individuals whose dedication and service have made Maplewood a better place to live,” said Mary Devon O’Brien, Chairman of the Maple Leaf Awards.

The 50th Annual Maple Leaf Award Ceremony and brunch, which will be held at Pantagis Renaissance (Route 22 in Scotch Plains), is open to all, and will begin promptly at 12:30 PM, so people should plan to arrive earlier in order to find seating. The cost is $40.00 per person (make check payable to Maple Leaf Fund and mail to Maplewood Civic Association at P.O. Box 3, Maplewood, NJ 07040). Reservations and payment in advance are required. For attendance information call: Mary Devon O’Brien at 973-763-4135.

Joan Crystal


Born in Brooklyn, New York, Joan earned a BS in Education at Adelphi University. Following her MS in Education earned at Brooklyn College of CUNY, Joan worked full-time for 43 years at a major municipality, specializing in public personnel management focused on test construction, administration, and position classification. In 1973, Joan married Bernard Crystal III, and they had a son, Joseph, who attended Prospect Coop Nursery School, Tuscan School, Maplewood, Middle School, Columbia High School and New Jersey Institute of Technology (graduated with BArch degree). Joseph is an architect doing project management with an architectural firm in West Orange, and he and his wife, Rebekah Gale, live in Maplewood with their 9 months old son, David. Joan moved to Maplewood in February 1981, and she began her remarkable community contributions as a volunteer with Troop 3 Boy Scouts, where she served six years as Troop Committee Secretary. She also served for six years on the General Government and Public Safety Subcommittees of the Citizens Budget Advisory Committee Joan’s volunteer service for the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and Maplewood has touched the community in a special way.

Her significant and longtime service with the VFW in conjunction with the annual Memorial Day Parade, has ensured a successful Memorial Day tribute year after year. Joan’s responsibilities included parade planning, recruiting marchers and volunteer helpers, handling publicity, developing the order of the march, coordinating with Maplewood town agencies, and supervising the activities at the assembly site. Joan performed the intake for the monthly blood drive, including troubleshooting, for the District 4 Blood Drive. At the East Orange VA Hospital, Joan held Holiday parties for the patients, welcoming patients and helping to place the refreshments in individual servings for the patients.

For approximately 23 years, Joan has been a long term, active volunteer with the VFW Ladies Auxiliary, Serving since 2011 as Information Desk Volunteer at the Maplewood Memorial Library, Joan greets patrons, shelves materials, answers questions, assists patrons using computers and the copier, teaches patrons how to use the online catalog, and helps patrons locate books in the library. In 2017, when it was created, Joan was appointed by the Maplewood Township Committee to serve as a member of the Maplewood Seniors Advisory Committee, There, Joan continues to attend monthly meetings of Senior Advisory Committee and make suggestions on ways in which Maplewood can be more senior friendly. Joan contributed significantly to the predecessor committee which developed the mission statement for the SOMA Two Towns For All Ages, including the logo selection, developing the job description for the project director, and determining the organization structure.

She is also a member of the Member Management Team, which serves as the Executive Board for the organization, and she is a member of the Local Steering Committee, which is comprised of volunteers working on the various sub-committees of the organization. Her volunteer service includes the various sponsored events including but not limited to the Volunteer Fair and the Repair Café. For the past two years Joan has also helped with the Town Sponsored Flu Clinic patient intake, and for the last three years, Joan has also worked as a volunteer at the Maplewoodstock Beer Garden run by the South Orange Elks, checking IDs and selling tickets.

As a 20 years plus volunteer at the Maplewood Civic Association’s 4th of July Celebration, Joan assisted in administering the push, pedal, pull parade and the baking contest; supervised Scouts selling refreshments; sold wristbands/ tags; collected tickets for the circus; assisted in setting up and administering the art project; and worked the Baker Gate. Joan is also a member of the South Orange Elks, the Maplewood Senior Club, and Senior Share.

The Maple Leaf Award expresses Maplewood’s appreciation for Joan’s generous service to improve the community and the lives of her fellow residents.

Cindy Thompson


Cindy grew up in Pennsylvania and graduated from Polyclinic Hospital School of Nursing in 1975 and St Joseph’s University in 1978. She moved to Maplewood in 1982 with husband Kevin. There they raised their three children: Katie (CHS ’02, Syracuse’06), Brian (MKA ’05, Colgate ’09), and Connor (CHS’11, Michigan State ’15, Rutgers ’17). Cindy worked at St. Barnabas in their Family Care Center from 2005 to 2013, and she earned her Certified Registered Nurse in Maternal-Newborn Nursing in 2011. She attained her IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) in 2013 and worked as a Calm Baby RN from 2013-present, helping new families adjust to the changes in their lives after bringing a newborn home from the hospital.

Cindy’ compassion for helping others extended beyond her professional life. In the mid 1990’s, Cindy volunteered in Newark providing care and love to infants and toddlers at BabyLand Nursery. From 1995 to1998, Cindy managed Girl Scout Troop 529’s Girl Scout cookie sales, and in 1995, she was a member of the Project Playground Committee to plan, fundraise and oversee the building of large playground at corner of Valley Street and Oakland Road.

Also, while her children attended Tuscan School and Maplewood Middle School, Cindy served as a volunteer Member of the Executive PTA/HSA Boards at those schools. Cindy continued her involved volunteer contributions with the Columbia High School Marching Band Parent Association and as a parent volunteer with MKA ice hockey and lacrosse teams. She served as the Fundraising Chair of Columbia High School Fencing team from 2008 through 2011, and she received the David Milton-Hall Award for volunteerism from the Fencing Team. Cindy also served as Co-Chair of Midnight Madness at CHS from 2010 to 2011.

While her son played there, Cindy served as Manager of Bridgewater Bears Youth Ice Hockey team from 2000 to 2004. Her volunteer service involved detailed communication between coaches, players, and their parents as well as the scheduling and travel arrangements for games both locally, nationally and internationally.

As a member of Prospect Presbyterian since 1989, Cindy has served as a Sunday School Teacher for many years. She participated in the Parish Nurse Program, she helped institute and maintain its blood pressure screening program, and she was instrumental in having members participate and become certified in CPR training. Then after research, she had an AED unit placed in the church. From 1990 to1992 and again from 1996 to 1998, Cindy served as the Administrator of the Prospect Co-Op Nursery School Executive Board of Directors.

For many years, Cindy served as the Children’s Activity Coordinator for the Interfaith Hospitality Network, during the weeks when Prospect Presbyterian Church was the host. She bought supplies and toys and planned evening activities for the children, and recently, her service focused on cooking and serving evening meals to the IHN guests. She also served as Publicity Chairperson for Prospect Presbyterian Church’s annual rummage sale.

From 1990 to 1992 and from 1996 to 1998, Cindy served as the Administrator of the Prospect Co-Op Nursery School Executive Board of Directors and as a Recent Moderator of Deacons, an in-church group that provides care (meals, rides, serves in-home communion) to shutins and members in need. “My true passion!” says Cindy, “is the Prospect Presbyterian’s Annual Secret Shoppe” which she originated with three friends as a holiday shopping event mainly for the church’s and Prospect Co-Op’s children. From 1996 to the present, it grew to include all Maplewood /South Orange children ages pre-school to middle school (almost 300 hundred shoppers in 2017). The year-long endeavor includes purchasing merchandise for sale and all the gift-wrapping and pricing supplies as well as organizing a gift-wrapping party prior to the Sale. Community Girl and Boy Scout Troops (over 80 Scouts helped in 2017), who volunteer to help our little shoppers make their purchases, are contacted. Cindy also volunteers in her immediate neighborhood.

From 1991 to 2011, she has served as a Co-Coordinator of her neighborhood block party, the Crescent Capers, managing reservations, purchasing food for the event, and booking activities for the children. Now Cindy counts spending time with her three little grandchildren as her greatest joy. Maplewood has benefited from and is grateful for Cindy’s generous gift of time and talent.


Continuously active since 1927, the Maplewood Garden Club, a 501(c) (3) organization with 172 members, has among its objectives to aid in the conservation of our natural resources, including wildflowers and birds; to provide gardening information and horticultural education; and to stimulate interest in good gardening; and further horticultural beauty in the Township.

Wherever you go in Maplewood, you will see one of the Maplewood Garden Club’s Township beautification efforts: the several theme gardens, the revitalized sundial site in Memorial Park; and the landscaping at both libraries as well as the contribution of trees and shrubs throughout the parks and along some of the streets. Each summer the MGC will pot up the planters at the railroad station, plant the traffic island at the Baker Street and Maplewood Avenue intersection, and contribute flowering plants for the town pool.

The MGC continues to introduce rare and unusual specimens to the Township and will continue our ongoing efforts to enhance our public spaces. The MGC’s Victorian Conservatory, a popular attraction in Ricalton Square each holiday season, was added to Dickens Village in 2001 for the MGC’s 75th Anniversary. The Durand-Hedden Herb Garden – a collection of herb species used for culinary, medicinal, fragrance, ornamental and craft purposes – was designed and installed by MGC in 1979 to complement and enhance the historic Durand-Hedden House, and MGC members continue the garden’s maintenance and development.

Supported by a $10,000 grant from the New Jersey American Water Company, the MGC designed, constructed, and planted the Hilton Rain Garden, a 1,200 square foot rain garden, adjacent to the Hilton Branch Library. In 2006, the Memorial Garden behind Town Hall was created to commemorate the contributions of long-time members Vincent Ferraro and Max Idel to the Garden Club and the Greenhouse. A stone wall was built, a hand-crafted trellis erected, and boxwood, roses and clematis planted.

The MGC’s annual Plant Sale, which takes place each May on the Thursday through Saturday before Mother’s Day, attracts gardeners from all over New Jersey and beyond. Proceeds from the sale fund all MGC activities, programs and projects. Wreath-Making Workshop: The MGC members create wreaths that are used to decorate the Railroad Station, Durand-Hedden House, the YMCA, the Libraries and other public buildings.

Railroad Station Decorating: In addition to the wreaths that are donated to the Train Station, MGC members decorate a Holiday tree for the railroad station lobby.

Youth Gardening: School-age children enjoy hands-on activities related to all aspects of gardening. They meet regularly in the greenhouses. Children experience the fun and satisfaction of gardening with a skilled youth leader. The Maple Food Garden, located near the Greenhouse, has become an important part of the MGC’s Youth Gardening activities. The young gardeners plant, weed, water and harvest vegetables, which are taken home by families and contributed to local food pantries

Scholarships: Annual scholarships are awarded to Rutgers University students and to Columbia High School seniors who have shown an interest in studying horticulture, landscape design, environmental studies, or related scientific areas.

Trips and Tours: Each year, MGC members visit a number of gardens and garden-related exhibits, including Chanticleer and Ambler Arboretum in PA, New York’s High Line and the Philadelphia Flower Show.

The Garden Club of New Jersey has twice been honored to receive a Certificate of Appreciation and Recognition from the Maplewood Township Committee and the Maplewood Civic Association. In addition, the Maplewood Garden Club received the Myra Brooks Garden Therapy Trophy for Outstanding Work in Garden Therapy, the Garden Club of New Jersey Award for Largest Membership Growth of an Over 50 Member Club, and the Garden Club of New Jersey, and the Certificate of Merit with a Gold Seal for an Excellent Yearbook Maplewood says a big Thank You to the Maplewood Garden Club’s dedication to conservancy and service to enhance Maplewood Parks and Public Places.

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