GREENVILLE — Dr. Joyce London was patiently seated at the Winter Inn restaurant Thursday evening as she waited to congratulate and honor a friend during the presentation of the 2014 Fred and Lena Meijer Spirit of Caring award.
But as last year’s recipient of the award, the Rev. Jerry Jones, began describing the characteristics and accomplishments of this year’s award winner, the mysterious fog that had hidden away this year’s winner began to lift, and in moments, an embarrassing smile began to form on London’s face.
As it turns out, she wasn’t there to congratulate a friend after all, but rather, to be honored herself by her friends and peers as this year’s award winner.
After she received both a hug from Jones and a bouquet of flowers, London turned to the audience of about 50 community members and said jokingly, “I’m never quite sure why people are so nice to me.”
It was a comment that received polite applause, as Jones had only moments before made it very clear why London was selected and viewed in such high regard.
“This award recipient is known to many as a quiet giver and an exemplary humanitarian,” Jones said. “She quietly gives to many causes and helps in many ways, not ever wanting anyone to know or to ever be paid.”
Jones said London has been a longtime supporter of the Spectrum Health United Hospital Tree of Lights and has made significant donations to the Building Healthy Futures Campaign.
“She demonstrates outstanding achievement and community work and exhibits a high leadership quality,” he said.
Her achievements include being named Greenville’s Woman of the Year as well as the recipient of the Marian Kemp Outstanding Citizen of the Year award.
London also serves on Greenville’s Board of Appeals and is a founding member of the Women’s Action Network, which provides free wigs, scarves and hats for those battling cancer.
The Fred and Lena Meijer Spirit of Caring award is named after the Meijers in honor of their longstanding commitment and dedication to the community of Greenville.
London was gracious in being selected as the ninth recipient of the award, which is presented to an individual who has demonstrated “a remarkable and dedicated commitment to improving the quality of life for people in the community.”
“I’m always amazed at how Greenville is in terms of caring and giving,” London said. “This community is as great as it is because of the kind of people that are in it. It’s just a day-to-day thing for them to care about the people around them and do nice things for them.”
London said she would accept the award, but wanted to acknowledge everyone in Greenville who has ever taken time to help someone in need.
“I accept this award for myself certainly, but more for all the people in Greenville who do all the things you don’t even know about,” she said. Most everybody I know does something for everybody else. Greenville is full of wonderful people. It’s important to me to be nice to people, because everyone is so nice to me.”
London will receive her award at the 2014 Many Hearts One Mission Charity Ball, which will be held on Feb. 8 at the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park.
The formal affair will include the presentation of the Fred and Lena Meijer Spirit of Caring Award, dinner and dancing.
Last year’s charity ball raised more than $82,500 in net proceeds to support United Lifestyles Diabetes Education Program, which was a 74 percent increase in donations over the previous year, and will aid in providing free diabetes education classes and supplies to those who cannot afford them.
Donations received at the 2014 charity ball will go toward a renovation and expansion project for the Obstetrics Department at Spectrum Health United Hospital.
Past recipients of the spirit award include Bill Braman, 2006; Blanche Ash, 2007; Linda Stafford, 2008; Dr. Donald C. Burns, 2009; William F. and Harriette C. Cook and Byron J. and Dolores M. Cook, 2010; Dr. Roger L. Coles, 2011; William T. Ham, 2012, and Rev. Jerry Jones, 2013.