January's Community Pioneer
MANISTIQUE – While a devotion to animals may be the crux of local resident Char Crosby’s community involvement, the effects of her philanthropy often spill over into many area homes. A volunteer at the Eva Burrell Animal Shelter, Crosby dedicates the majority of her time to caring for and training the dogs which eventually enrich the lives of their adopters.
Crosby has a long history with the area, beginning with family vacations to a summer cottage her parents built on Lake Michigan when she was a teenager living in Jackson, Mich. Since that time, Crosby says she never stopped visiting and feeling a deep attachment to the Manistique and Thompson communities.
She even spread this appreciation to her husband, who often accompanied her and their children to the area.
“My husband and I just loved it so much, that when we retired, we knew this is where we were going to be,” she said.
“My husband’s job moved us around the country a bit,” she said. “I started in Michigan and then Ohio, Georgia, and Texas. And then back to Michigan when we retired.”
The pair moved from the Dallas/Fort Worth area to Thompson Township in 1997. Despite the move from the warmer southern weather, Crosby says she was happy to come back to the place she had enjoyed intermittently throughout the years.
“Sometimes you just get too hot, and you stay hot for too long,” she added with a laugh.
Upon her arrival to the community, Crosby says she knew she was not ready to slow down.
“I was very excited to retire, even though I enjoyed my career. I was ready for something else,” she explained. “I had a list of things I wanted to do.”
The first item on her list? To volunteer with an animal shelter. According to Crosby, she had done that some shelter volunteering in Texas and enjoyed it. Luckily, she soon stumbled across something right up her alley.
“That September (1997), there was an article in the (Pioneer) Tribune about an effort to build an animal shelter,” she explained.
After reading the article, Crosby began working with Kathy White, who was spearheading the shelter effort, along with a group of others. The group worked to ease the burden on local resident Eva Burrell, who, for nearly 20 years, took animals from a makeshift city shelter to care for them on her property.
“She had room on her farm, and she had a big heart, and she would cruise by the pound and see who was there and take them home so they wouldn’t be shot,” explained Crosby. “It was time the community stepped up, so, under Kathy’s guidance and enthusiasm, that’s what we did.”
After three years of fundraising efforts and awareness campaigns, Crosby says the group was eventually able to open the Eva Burrell Animal Shelter in January of 2000. Since that time, Crosby and the other shelter volunteers have worked to go above and beyond what is normally expected of a shelter.
“We believe that nobody wants to adopt an animal that’s wild and unruly, not house-trained, not sociable,” she said. “So we put a lot of effort, not only into their health and nutrition, but also to their training and socialization.”
By focusing more on the overall well-being of each animal, Crosby says people are more likely to find an animal that suits their needs and readily fits into their lifestyle. In addition to the specialized care and training of animals, she explained the shelter also reaches out to the community with free winter pet bedding, participation in safety fairs, an inmate dog training program, educational programs, pet food donations, and a reduced cost spay/neuter program for residents’ animals.
“We’ve always had an outreach program to help the community as much as we can, as far as their animal needs are concerned,” she said.
Crosby, who spends at least two days each week volunteering at the shelter and serves as the shelter board’s co-president, explains her love of animals is what keeps her coming back.
“It takes up a lot of time, but there are far more joys and rewards than there are heartaches,” she said. “I’ve always liked animals; doesn’t matter what variety.”
She even jokes about the attire one is forced to wear when participating in the shelter’s hands-on work, saying that she sometimes thinks of putting together a “shelter fashion album”.
“You do what you have to do, especially if you’re a dog volunteer. You get slobbered on, sometimes things get ripped,” she said, adding with a laugh, “We make a distinct fashion statement – just not very fashionable.”
Along with her fondness of animals and work at the shelter, Crosby also dabbles in another of her interests – history – by serving on the Thompson Historical Advisory Board.
“Our main effort has been to investigate the history of the Christmas Tree Ship and Thompson’s origin as a lumbering town and a boom town in the late 1800s,” she explained.
The board’s work throughout the years has included the designation of Thompson as a state historical site, the installation of historical markers, and the recent revival of the Christmas Tree Ship tradition. In fact, Crosby says the board and a group in Chicago recently joined efforts to bring Thompson Christmas trees to needy families in the Chicago area – much like the Christmas Tree Ship so many years ago.
When she’s not busy with the shelter or historical board, Crosby says she also participates with senior writers at the Manistique Senior Center and enjoys the “perks” of living on Lake Michigan, especially kayaking and fishing. Despite her busy schedule, she explains she wants to tackle yet another item on her “retirement” list – spending more time with her 10 grandchildren.
“We’d very much like to spend more time with family,” she said. “That’s kind of my next thing.”